Wales and British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has been ruled out until at least October, putting his participation in his country’s autumn internationals in serious jeopardy.
Warburton became the first Lions captain to successfully lead a squad to a Test series victory since Martin Johnson in 1997, when the Lions defeated South Africa 2-1.
The Cardiff Blues flanker led his side to a similar scoreline in Australia this summer, but he was forced to limp out of the second Test with a hamstring injury, to which the full extent has now been revealed.
A torn hamstring has ruled him out for between 12-16 weeks, and with 16 weeks until Wales meet South Africa at the Millennium Stadium, he will be rushed back to fitness if he is to feature in the opening game of the four match series.
Blues medical chief John Miles said: "Sam suffered a grade three tear to his left hamstring in the second Lions test against Australia on the 29th of June.
"He has had a scan with specialists in London yesterday which has shown the injury is already healing. He therefore does not need surgery but will require a period of rehabilitation between 12 to 16 weeks from the date of the injury.
"His rehabilitation will focus on range of motion, flexibility and specific strengthening of the hamstring in order for him to return to full health."
Warburton will also miss the opening games of the RaboDirect Pro12 season in which the Blues are looking to rebuild after a disappointing campaign last year, and he will also miss the first two pool games of their Heineken Cup campaign.
The back-row suffered from a ‘stinger’ injury to his shoulder during Wales’ RBS Six Nations campaign earlier this year, and having been out of form, he was relieved of the captaincy to focus on his performances.
Coach Warren Gatland’s decision seemed to do the trick as he sparkled against England in the Six Nations decider in March, and it was his return to form that saw him named Lions captain by Gatland.
He picked up a small knee injury before the tour started, keeping him out of the opening two games, but he soon returned to action and was formidable in defence in the first two Tests until he was helped off the pitch towards the end of the Melbourne Test.