'Slater out for the season'
England lock Ed Slater's "horrific" season-ending knee injury could leave him battling for a place at Rugby World Cup 2015.
The Leicester captain is expected to miss the entire 2014/15 campaign after undergoing knee surgery, boss Richard Cockerill has announced.
The 26-year-old tore his anterior cruciate ligament while captaining England's midweek side to a 38-7 victory over the Crusaders during June's New Zealand tour.
Slater could regain full fitness just six weeks before England launch their bid for World Cup glory on home soil, by hosting Fiji at Twickenham on September 18, 2015.
"It's horrific for Ed in many ways," said Cockerill.
"He has been in the England squad and just taken on the captaincy here at the club.
"He will come back better and fresher than ever, whenever that may be. As ever, we will stick by him.
"It's a critical year for us and for him with the World Cup coming up, and the likelihood is that he is not going to play a game between now and pre-season next year.
"He will probably spend the next 12 weeks off his feet and it will be a long way back.
"He has had his ACL reconstructed and he will be pretty much out for the season."
Slater would have been primed to battle Joe Lanchbury, Courtney Lawes, Geoff Parling and Dave Attwood for a second-row berth in head coach Stuart Lancaster's full England side this term.
The former Nottingham lock's injury absence will be offset at Leicester by the summer capture of World Cup-winning former All Black Brad Thorn.
The evergreen 39-year-old was brought in to ease the loss of Steve Mafi, who has joined Australian Super Rugby franchise Western Force.