Care devastated by injury KO
Danny Care has admitted he is "absolutely devastated" after being ruled out of World Cup contention just five days before England boss Martin Johnson names his squad.
The Harlequins scrum-half was rated as a certainty to feature among Johnson's 30-man party that will head to New Zealand on August 29.
But 24-year-old Care will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair a damaged joint in his left big toe suffered during last Saturday's defeat against World Cup warm-up opponents Wales at the Millennium Stadium. Care said on Twitter: "Absolutely devastated about my injury, but in the best hands for my op."
England's medical staff anticipate that Care, who has won 32 caps, will be sidelined for six weeks. With Johnson confident that last season's Six Nations number nine Ben Youngs will be fit and available after having a knee operation earlier this summer, it leaves Saracens' Richard Wigglesworth in pole position to join Youngs at the World Cup.
Johnson must then decide whether to name a third scrum-half - Wasps' Joe Simpson - or maximise the versatility of a player like full-back Ben Foden, who has played Premiership rugby in the number nine position.
He added: "Wish the lads all the best to hopefully win the World Cup!! Thank you so much to everyone for your kind messages, helping me getting through this tough time. Supposedly everything happens for a reason?"
And Wigglesworth was one of the first to offer his condolences to Care, tweeting: "Gutted for Danny. Spoke to him yesterday. Worst timing possible. Big loss to the squad as a player and a person."
Care is the first player to be sidelined from Johnson's squad selection plans for a tournament that England kick off against Argentina in Dunedin on September 10. Johnson said: "We are all hugely disappointed for Danny, who has worked extremely hard and has been an important part of the squad throughout our Rugby World Cup preparations.
"He featured in both warm-up fixtures (against Wales) and was on course for selection, so this injury is really disappointing for him personally and for us as a squad. Nobody wants to see a player ruled out at this stage through injury, and we all wish Danny a speedy recovery.
"In terms of our selection options we are fortunate to have depth at nine with Ben Youngs, now back into full training, Joe Simpson and Richard Wigglesworth. These guys have all been part of the Rugby World Cup camp and will be considered ahead of the final 30-man squad announced on Monday."