England's injury problems are mounting ahead of their autumn series after Riki Flutey was ruled out today with Delon Armitage potentially facing a similar fate tomorrow.
Flutey's involvement in the fixtures against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand is over because of a shoulder injury that requires up to three months of rehabilitation.
The Lions centre underwent an arthroscopic examination of his left shoulder labrum this morning which revealed the extent of the damage.
A statement released by England read: "The surgeon has concluded, in conjunction with the England and Brive medical teams, that Riki will be unavailable for a period of up to three months.
"It is therefore unlikely that he will be able to prepare or take part in England's Investec Challenge internationals in November."
Flutey initially sustained the injury in January but was able to play through the RBS 6 Nations and Lions tour, although he later admitted he was unable to perform at 100%.
The loss of the 29-year-old, who made his Test debut last November, is a significant blow to Martin Johnson given his growing influence in England's midfield.
A problem position since the retirement of Will Greenwood, Flutey began making an impact at inside centre in the second half of the Six Nations.
The setback means Johnson can ill afford to lose another key member of his back line - the reality facing him if Armitage's own left shoulder injury proves serious.
Armitage was helped off with a suspected dislocation in the final quarter of London Irish's 40-10 Guinness Premiership victory over Gloucester yesterday.
The 25-year-old, who played in every one of England's matches last season after making debut in November, was due to undergo a scan today.
A statement read: "Further to an injury sustained to his left shoulder during the Guinness Premiership match between London Irish and Gloucester Rugby yesterday, Delon Armitage will have a scan today and the results will be available this evening.
"Delon will then see a specialist tomorrow morning to review the results of the scan.
"Once that consultation has taken place a further announcement will be made."
Irish head coach Toby Booth was reluctant to give a date for Armitage's return but the typical recovery time for a dislocated shoulder is six to 12 weeks.
Even at the lowest end of severity his participation in England's opening November internationals is threatened, while he could also miss the Tests against Argentina and New Zealand.
Armitage was England's outstanding player last season, coming from nowhere to make his Test debut against the Pacific Islanders in November - starting a run of 11 caps that produced five tries.
Losing Flutey and Armitage will cause an early headache for Johnson ahead of the autumn opener against Australia on November 7, especially with fly-half Toby Flood already ruled out as he recovers from Achilles surgery.Reuse content