Worcester are bracing themselves for the news that veteran prop Tevita Taumoepeau may have made his last appearance for the club.
The 38-year-old is yet to play this season after having an operation to correct a neck condition during the summer.
Doctors have yet to give Warriors a definite return date for the former Tongan international and while no-one at Sixways will speculate on when that might be, there is a concern that he could have played his last game in the Blue and Gold.
Head coach Richard Hill has refuted any suggestion that Taumoepeau, who has played 181 times since joining Worcester in 2005, will be forced to retire with the problem.
But as long as the situation continues without a resolution the chances of him adding to his tally of Warriors games grow more remote, if only because of the fact he is on a one-year contract.
Hill hopes to find out more in the coming days but for now he must do without one of his most important players.
“He will play again, the question is when he will play again,” Hill said. “We are waiting to see whether the surgeon who did the operation will say it’s two weeks, two months, six months or 12 months.
“With these things it is quite difficult for a specialist to make a commitment in terms of how many months. A lot of it depends on how the player responds.
“We are at the stage now where we will need to have some more definite lines.”
Hill also revealed that Taumoepeau’s plight is not necessarily just a case of returning from surgery.
“His neck is okay but when he had his neck operation there is a nerve in his arm that is not allowing his hand to fully function.”
Taumoepeau’s role has been filled by John Andress, who joined from Exeter in the summer but who has, as yet, struggled to attain his predecessor’s consistency.
Andress infringed on four occasions in the disappointing draw with Gloucester last Saturday, mostly for early engagement.
But Hill has faith Andress can develop into a front-line tighthead. “He is very mobile around the park, he makes his tackles, he carries ball. That is a very good signing for us.”