Jerry Flannery’s prospects of featuring in Ireland's World Cup bid are looking increasingly remote as he faces into a three-month rehabilitation process following surgery on Tuesday.
The Munster hooker's career has been blighted by persistent injury since he was forced to miss the Lions tour in 2009.
But while the situation looks grim for Flannery, there is still hope he could recover in time to participate in Ireland's World Cup preparations in July and August.
“Jerry Flannery had surgery for his calf injury on Tuesday,” said Munster coach Tony McGahan.
“It is a three-month rehab. His time with Munster is certainly finished this season, but it will give him an opportunity to prove himself for selection for the World Cup squad.
“Jerry will be given every opportunity. They will see how it goes. The operation was only yesterday (Tuesday).
“There is a three-month process to return to train and play. That will be the judging of that when it comes to that.”
England will open their World Cup campaign in Dunedin after organisers announced which venues will stage matches which had been due to be played in earthquake-hit Christchurch.
Martin Johnson's team will take on Argentina on September 10, at Otago Stadium. England will then take on Georgia at the same Dunedin venue on September 18.
Scotland were also due to play Argentina in Christchurch on September 25, but while the date remains the same, the match will now take place at the Wellington Regional Stadium.
The Scots’ September 14 clash with Georgia has been moved from Dunedin to Invercargill for “operational reasons”, organisers Rugby New Zealand (RNZ) 2011 announced.