England look set to be without Exeter number eight Sam Simmonds for the summer tour of Australia.
Exeter boss Rob Baxter says it is “unlikely” that Simmonds will be available after being sidelined because of a hip injury.
And Baxter has confirmed that the 27-year-old will require surgery.
England kick off a three-Test series against the Wallabies in Perth on July 2, which is followed by games in Brisbane and Sydney.
Asked about 14 times-capped Simmonds’ prospects of making the trip, Baxter said: “Sam will be unlikely to, because he is going to be having an operation.
“It is a niggly hip injury, which has been causing him pain.
“If he gets this sorted now, it means he can have a good recovery time and a good pre-season.
“It is a huge year for anybody who has got international ambitions next year, with it being World Cup year.”
Baxter, meanwhile, has delivered more encouraging bulletins on three of Simmonds’ England colleagues – hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, wing Jack Nowell and lock Jonny Hill.
Cowan-Dickie suffered a knee injury during England’s Six Nations victory over Wales in February, while Nowell broke his arm in the tournament finale against France just over eight weeks ago.
Lock Hill, who will join Exeter’s Gallagher Premiership rivals Sale next season, has not played since early January due to a stress fracture of his lower leg.
Baxter added: “Luke has got a good chance of being ready for the end stage of the season, so in all possibility could still tour.
“As far as we are looking at it, they (Cowan-Dickie and Hill) will be in with England for some rehab so England can have a look at them early next week.
“They are (all) progressing pretty well at the moment.
“The tour is still a little way away – it is over a month before England head off – so they have still got a decent amount of rehab time before those decisions need to be made.”