Sam Simmonds faces an uphill battle to feature at the Rugby World Cup in Japan after being ruled out for between six and nine months with a major knee ligament injury.
The England and Exeter number 8 ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament against Worcester last weekend and will definitely be unavailable for England’s autumn and Six Nations campaigns.
“If the operation and rehab goes really well we’d like to hope we can maybe see him before the end of the season but it’s going to be touch and go,” the Chiefs’ director of rugby, Rob Baxter, said.
“It’s hard to absorb because Simmo has been a key momentum gainer for us. Obviously, he is upset. He was looking forward to having a big season.”
The only possible upside, Baxter reckons, is that Simmonds should be back fit and raring to go in mid-summer if England’s pack require any 11th-hour reinforcements. “The other guys are going to be playing and are more likely to be picking up injuries than Sam,” Baxter said.
“Two or three of them might go down yet. He may well find that, if he manages to get a big month in with us before the end of the season, he could look like the guy who is absolutely flying.”