Tom Croft sidelined for season
Leicester and England have been dealt a major injury setback just six days into the new season.
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Tigers flanker Tom Croft is not expected to play again this term after undergoing knee surgery.
Croft, who toured Australia with the British and Irish Lions earlier this summer and has won 38 England caps, was hurt during the closing stages of Leicester's Aviva Premiership victory over Worcester last weekend.
"Tom had a bang on the knee at the end of Sunday's game which seemed innocuous," Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill said.
"But it felt sore the next morning and, after further investigation, it appears the damage is to the ACL, the (anterior) cruciate (ligament). He had surgery on that yesterday and it is likely his season is over.
"It is horrendous bad luck for Tom. He came back from a neck injury last year to play so well for Leicester, England and the British and Irish Lions. But these things happen in sport.
"He will make a full recovery, but it takes time. It is a big blow for him and for us, but we will look forward to welcoming him back when he has fully recovered."
Croft suffered a career-threatening neck injury in April last year, yet he returned to action eight months later.
He quickly recaptured top form and forced himself back into England contention, starting the final game of last season's RBS 6 Nations Championship against Wales in Cardiff.
The 27-year-old then continued to impress during Leicester's successful push for the Premiership title, and he clinched a place on the Lions tour to Australia.
Croft featured in all three Lions Tests during the 2009 South Africa tour. This time around, he started the first Test in Brisbane and went on as a replacement during the second Test.
Croft's long absence will be a huge blow to England head coach Stuart Lancaster, who would have viewed him as an integral part of his plans, both for the November internationals and the Six Nations.
He named Croft in the latest England elite player squad, but Lancaster must now press ahead without him, initially during an autumn campaign that features Twickenham appointments with Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.
In addition to his neck problem, Croft has twice previously fought back from knee injuries during a career of extreme highs and lows.