Manu Tuilagi's hope of reviving his England career have suffered yet another setback, after Leicester Tigers announced the centre will undergo knee surgery later this week and will be out for 12 weeks.
The 26-year-old picked up an injury in the Tigers' opening Premiership game of the season against Bath on Sunday and now requires surgery on his meniscus. The injury comes at a particular bad time for Tuilagi, as the fixture against Bath, in which he scored, was his first competitive game since January after recovering from a separate knee injury.
"This is not the knee that Manu injured last season and this is not a major injury in the context of what kept him out for the first half of this year," said Leicester head coach Matt O'Connor.
"Manu has worked really hard with the medical and conditioning teams to come back from long-term injury and was starting to find his feet again on the pitch, but he's just been very unlucky with this one.
"It was an innocuous bump, a freak incident in the game. On closer inspection, there is some damage to the meniscus which needs to be addressed. We look forward to having him back at the end of his recovery period."
On Wednesday (6 September), the England coach Eddie Jones had said he was ready to give Tuilagi and Sale Sharks winger Denny Solomona another chance, after the pair were suspended for "cultural issues" last month following a late-night drinking episode.
However, the injury has now ruled Tuilagi out of the upcoming autumn internationals against Australia, Argentina and Samoa and will cast further doubts over his international future, given the centre has been beset by injuries over the last two seasons and has not played for England since the 2016 Six Nations.
In August, Jones praised the 26-year-old's potential, suggesting he was looking to bring the Samoan-born centre back into the England fold ahead of this year's autumn internationals. "I do know he can demolish the All Blacks, so he's worth time, he's worth effort and worth a lot of care," said the England coach.
"I don't think we have any at the moment but we are developing players who are going to be like that. He's had a tough time – the amount of injuries he's had would be enough to knock people away. He is in good physical condition."