Saints star Ben Foden will undergo an ankle operation in the next few days – and will be out of action for 10-12 weeks.
Foden visited a specialist on Wednesday to assess the extent of the ankle ligament damage he sustained in the win at Bath last Friday night.
And it wasn’t good news for the England man, who is now likely to miss Saints’ first four Heineken Cup games as well as his country’s autumn internationals, which start on November 10.
Saints boss Jim Mallinder said: “Ben had been playing well at the start of this season and to lose him to injury is obviously disappointing, but we know that he is a dedicated professional and will work hard with our performance team to come back as a better and fitter player.
“In the meantime Ben’s injury will give opportunities for the other back three players in our squad like James Wilson, Scott Armstrong and Noah Cato to show what they can do in the Saints first team.”
England boss Stuart Lancaster echoed those sentiments and stated his belief that Foden will be back in the fray for the 2013 Six Nations.
“It is unfortunate for Ben who has had a good run in the side and is a valuable leader, but we have a number of back three players who are playing well and this offers a chance for them,” said Lancaster.
“Our medics will work closely with Northampton Saints to help Ben’s recovery and I am sure he will be available for the RBS 6 Nations.”