England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson could be picked for the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand without playing a minute of the upcoming RBS 6 Nations campaign.
Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward has confirmed that he would be prepared to take the Newcastle Falcons stand-off even if his medial ligament injury means he cannot play any international rugby before the party leaves in May.
"I am not sure how severe his injury is, I have just read in the papers he is going to miss the first two or three games,'' Woodward told BBC Radio 5 Live.
"Obviously from my point of view, I would love him to play in the Six Nations.
"But if he is coming back from a knee injury and he is going to miss the first two or three games, it is going to be a bit of a surprise, I think, if he makes the last two because he has obviously got to get a couple of games in for his club Newcastle before (England coach) Andy (Robinson) could consider him.
"I hope he gets a chance of a run-out in the Six Nations. From my point of view, he obviously needs to be playing some rugby before the trip - and he is desperate to come on the trip, which is fantastic.
"It would obviously be nice just for the Six Nations, but the last day of the Six Nations is towards the end of March.
"If he is fit around that time, that would give him playing rugby throughout April and most of May. We need him fit to go on the trip and we do not leave until May 23.
"He has got plenty of time. I am sure he will get over this injury straight away, but it is not a prerequisite that he plays in the Six Nations.
"But in saying that, if he is there, fantastic; if he is not there, there are also other outstanding guys playing in his position."
Meanwhile, Woodward confirmed that he does not expect England's World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson to have a change of heart and make himself available for the tour.
"There is no-one with more respect for Martin than me," he said.
"I am looking at Martin now along with many other players, but I do not think Martin will be on the trip because he is already committed to a testimonial match, I think, in June and he is doing various big speaking events down here.
"We have never actually finally said 'no' to each other on this, I have just got to make sure we pick the right players.
"But I would be very surprised if Martin made himself available for the Lions."