England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson has revealed he expects to be out of action for at least another five months.
Wilkinson has undergone surgery after dislocating his knee last week but there were reports suggesting he could be back in action early next year.
The news is a huge blow for the injury-plagued 29-year-old and puts his participation in next year’s RBS 6 Nations Championship and British and Irish Lions tour in doubt.
Wilkinson wrote in his column in The Times: “I saw my knee specialist yesterday and he confirmed that the recovery time for my left knee is likely to be five months.
“It is no secret that this does not augur well for my hopes for England, or the Lions later in the summer, but, as is my way, I will not rule anything out. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen, but it will have been worth striving for.”
The Newcastle star has suffered a multitude of problems since his heroics in helping England win the World Cup in 2003.
Wilkinson’s good form in the early part of this season had offered great hope of an international future and he insists his career is far from over despite admitting his latest setback is his worst yet.
He said: “I'll just nail one thing, though: the idea that this might be the end of my playing career. Forget it.
“It's not a consideration. When I did the knee, against Gloucester last week, I was actually quite positive and thinking it would be just one month. Obviously it didn't quite pan out that way, but I have no doubt that I'll be back.”
He added: “For starters, this is the most debilitating injury I've had and the most painful post-surgery, too.
“Rehabilitating from the operation on my neck in 2004 was very tough and on my shoulder this summer made it hard to sleep, and I've had other knee problems before, but I've never had to move so slowly and cautiously and I've always had enough movement, even when on crutches, to carry things with me.”