Brad Barritt underwent corrective surgery on ligaments in his foot on Friday and is not expected to be back in action until the New Year, meaning he will not be able to participate in the autumn internationals and his involvement in the 2014 Six Nations is also in doubt.

For England, this is a further blow as, with the season only two weeks old, head coach Stuart Lancaster has already lost two players from the elite player squad named in August.

Leicester flanker Tom Croft, who spent much of last season working his way back to full fitness after a career-threatening neck injury, will not play again this season after suffering a cruciate knee injury in his teams opening match against Worcester.

Barritt has been Lancaster’s preferred inside-centre since the coach took over almost two years ago. He has been virtually ever-present in the backline as a solid, reliable figure who has led England’s defensive line.

He was rested for England’s tour of Argentina in the summer but was summoned from holiday in America to play for the Lions against the Brumbies in Canberra.

Speaking about the injury, Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: “Brad is a tremendously important player for us and England. He is on the road to recovery and we look forward to his return later this season.

"He will be missed through the autumn, although we have talented players ready to step forward."

There already appears to be a significant toll of injuries occurring to those who were on the Lions tour in Australia. Wales and Racing Metro centre Jamie Roberts faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines, as well as Leciester duo Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi, who have both yet to play this season as they recover from shoulder problems.

England have suitable cover for Barritt in the shape of Gloucester’s Billy Twelvetrees and Bath’s Kyle Eastmond who have both acquitted themselves well in recent international performances.

England have recently been lauded for having developed strength-in-depth but those resources are being tested. What may worry Lancaster is that there are still two months of Premiership and European action to get through before the first of the three international test matches against Australia at Twickenham on November 2.

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