England second row Joe Launchbury is set to miss the RBS Six Nations campaign and spend up to four months on the sidelines because he needs neck surgery.
Launchbury was ruled out of last month’s autumn series at Twickenham because of a recurring nerve problem in his neck and was told at the time that he would need six to eight weeks to recover.
However, after consultations with specialists, the 23-year-old will undergo surgery today before beginning a longer rehabilitation process.
Wasps said: “Joe Launchbury will undergo surgery to decompress a nerve in his neck.
“Launchbury hasn’t played since the beginning of November due to a bulging disc.
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“He will undergo a routine decompression of the nerve and is expected to be out of hospital on Saturday. A rehabilitation period of approximately three to four months is anticipated.”
Wasps director of rugby Dai Young said: “As you would expect, this is a frustrating time for Joe, but the most important thing in all of this isn’t rugby, it’s Joe’s long-term health. We have consulted specialists in this field and they have recommended surgery as the best option to get him back to full fitness for the long term.
“Joe is in good hands, being looked after by one of the world’s leading surgeons and he will have the full support of the Wasps and England medical teams during his rehabilitation period.”
Launchbury will miss crucial playing time with England before the World Cup, at which Stuart Lancaster’s team are the hosts next autumn.
Capped 22 times, the 6ft 6in lock had become a key figure in Lancaster’s XV, starting every game during last season’s Six Nations championship and the three summer Tests against New Zealand in a run of 19 consecutive starting appearances.
In Launchbury’s absence, Dave Attwood stepped into the second row alongside Courtney Lawes for the autumn series.
The Bath forward will have a chance to press claims for a World Cup starting role when England head into Six Nations battle.
Leicester’s Graham Kitchener provides another option for head coach Lancaster.
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