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Cole set for operation

England prop Dan Cole is to undergo a neck operation next week and will miss the autumn's QBE Internationals, Press Association Sport understands.

Cole has been out since March after it was decided he needed rest to heal a bulging disc that was trapping a nerve.

It was hoped the spell on the sidelines would correct the problem, but the British and Irish Lions tighthead has now been told he requires an operation entailing six months of rehabilitation.

Cole started the first two matches of the RBS 6 Nations campaign against France and Scotland, but withdrew from the squad in the build up to the clash with Ireland.

The 27-year-old, England's first-choice tighthead, experienced weakness in one arm during a gym session at St George's Park and scans revealed the disc problem.

It was hoped that with rest and treatment the Leicester front row would return in time for the start of next season, but the impending surgery means he will be sidelined until November.

The return date all but rules him out of a busy autumn schedule against New Zealand, South Africa, Samoa and Australia, adding to the mounting problems faced by head coach Stuart Lancaster.

England will hope that David Wilson, who filled Cole's boots against Ireland, Wales and Italy, will stay injury-free as Henry Thomas is deemed not ready to start in such a key position.

Lancaster is missing his Aviva Premiership finalists for the first Test of the summer tour to New Zealand on June 7 and must also do without George Ford, who is to undergo shoulder surgery.

The prospects of first choice hooker Dylan Hartley playing any part against the All Blacks are diminishing rapidly because of a shoulder problem.

Now Lancaster must plan for the QBE Internationals without a key member of his squad in Cole.

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