Andy Farrell looks set to miss Saracens' first five Guinness Premiership games after suffering a pre-season injury.
The former Great Britain and Wigan rugby league skipper was hurt during Saracens’ friendly against Australian Super 14 side Western Force.
A fracture to and dislocation of his thumb will see him sidelined for up to eight weeks, suggesting he is likely to sit out Premiership clashes with Harlequins, Sale Sharks, Newcastle and Northampton next month, plus an October 1 trip to Bristol.
It is another setback for the England union international centre, whose career in rugby’s 15-a-side code has been dealt repeated injury blows.
Farrell went on as a second-half replacement during the 19-10 victory over Western Force, but he was forced off within minutes and replaced by his son Owen.
Farrell said: “It is totally frustrating, especially after flogging yourself for eight weeks in pre-season and then just when you start to look forward to the games, this happens.
“Things were going really well. I played out in Bayonne in a friendly the week before, felt in great shape and was looking forward to getting on the field against Western Force.
“I had only been on a few minutes when I went in for a cover tackle and took the impact on my thumb. As soon as it happened, I knew I was in a bit of trouble.
“But as frustrated as I am, you won’t find me sitting in the corner and sulking.
“I can still train, and I shall use this time to get fitter and stronger and turn this time into an advantage.
“I will be arranging my training around the first team to make sure I am at all the sessions and doing whatever I can to continue to help pushing the team in the right direction, maintaining the progress we have shown in pre-season.”
Farrell, 33, was recently named alongside England skipper Steve Borthwick as Saracens co-captain for the new campaign.