Manu Tuilagi could miss the entire Six Nations because of a groin injury.
The Samoan-born centre has been out of action since 19 October, and his recovery is taking longer than initially thought.
He missed all of England's November Tests and has now set a return date of end of February as a target, which would see him ruled out of the first three Six Nations games at a minimum.
'It's slow. I had three prolotherapy injections – sugar – to try to bring the pubis back together,' explained Tuilagi. 'It's slow but it's getting there. No one's really sure how long it's going to take. When it first happened even the doctor said it would be six to eight weeks.
'There are good days and bad days. Some days it feels brilliant and you wake up the next day and it doesn't feel so good.
'[The end of February is] ideal but I have to get this right. It's not like a sprained ankle where you can strap up and get on with it. I have to make sure that, if I need to take another week or two, I'll take it.'
Tuilagi's absence is a blow to coach Stuart Lancaster, who is already without injured forward trio Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes and Ben Morgan.
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