England's injury crisis deepened last night after Mike Tindall became its latest victim and was all but ruled out of next Saturday's opening Test against Australia.
In the latest blow to Martin Johnson's plans ahead of the autumn internationals, Tindall limped off with a hamstring injury after just 16 minutes of Gloucester's 28-23 Guinness Premiership defeat at Sale.
The 31-year-old centre, who played alongside Johnson in England's 2003 World Cup-winning side, attempted to chase his own kick from near the halfway line.
However, he pulled up immediately and looked in severe distress as he trudged off the field with his head in his hands.
Thirteen of Johnson's original elite squad are now unavailable because of injury and Gloucester head coach Bryan Redpath said of Tindall's setback: "It's a recurrence of his hamstring, but not exactly in the same place.
"He trained all week and looked great and makes a difference to us when he is here, but sadly he's aggravated the injury and it's hard to take."
As head coach Stuart Lancaster polishes the axe he will soon wield over his World Cup training squad, Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter has backed Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie to be given a stay of execution.
Italy Under-20s held off a late Samoa blitz to retain their place in the World Rugby U20 Championship on Saturday and head coach Alessandro Troncon believes the experience will have served as a valuable lesson for his young troops.