Two pillars of Bath’s back row could have played their final games of 2012 after going under the knife.
Flanker Carl Fearns is on crutches and in a medical boot following an operation on his ankle, while a thumb injury suffered by the versatile Ben Skirving in training also required surgery.
Forwards coach Neal Hatley says the latest prognosis from the club’s medical department is that both could be sidelined for around six or seven weeks.
With fellow flank forward Francois Louw away with South Africa for the autumn internationals, Bath are turning to the younger members of their back row.
Hatley says he has no qualms about the job that the likes of Guy Mercer, Josh Ovens, Will Skuse and new signing Nick Koster can do in the absence of their more senior team-mates.
The form of Academy flanker Skuse, who has represented England under-20s, has been hailed a “godsend” by Hatley, while Mercer and Ovens are also judged to be coming nicely to the boil.
Bath’s options in the back-row have also been lifted by the return from injury of former Scotland international and British Lion Simon Taylor, who delivered an accomplished display against the Dragons on Saturday.
“The form of Will Skuse has been a godsend to us,” Hatley said. “He has done really well and it’s been good to see Josh Ovens and Guy Mercer really grabbing their opportunity after some good performances for Bath United.
“These young guys are fantastic – they bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm.”
Hatley said South African signing Koster, who joined the club last month, was close to making his debut.
“We are making sure that Nick is fully prepared physically and up to speed with all the calls,” said Hatley. “Nick has good hands, is very quick, and we should be seeing him for Bath before too long.”
Away from the back row, Bath have other injury concerns. Centre Dan Hipkiss is out for a month after he was struck in the face during Saturday’s LV= Cup match.
“We expect players to be out for periods of time,” he said. “To think they will all be around for six to seven months is unrealistic.”
“Rugby’s amazingly attritional now. We want to train hard to replicate games. There’s not only the bang at the weekend, the players have the bang on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday too.
“That’s why we place so much importance on our medical and strength and conditioning teams. Bath Rugby is in a great position with the backroom staff that has been assembled.”
Australia’s Rob Simmons has received an eight-week ban after being cited for a dangerous tackle during last Saturday’s Test against France.
Simmons, who went on as a replacement, was reported for a tip tackle on Les Bleus forward Yannick Nyanga.