David Strettle has suffered a Wayne Rooney-style foot injury which looks set to force the winger out of the England reckoning for the World Cup.
Strettle, who has won three caps, was hurt in a session at England's University of Bath base on Tuesday.
The Harlequins star has broken the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, and was due to see a specialist in London yesterday accompanied by England team doctor Simon Kemp and Quins' head physiotherapist Steph Brennan.
England head coach Brian Ashton said yesterday: "I am obviously sorry to hear about David's injury and I wish him a speedy recovery. I won't make any decisions about a possible replacement until I receive a full briefing on the consultation tomorrow morning [today]."
England soccer stars David Beckham and Wayne Rooney both endured seven-week absences when they suffered similar injuries at various stages of their career.
Beckham broke the second metatarsal in his left foot 51 days before the 2002 World Cup, while Rooney broke the fourth metatarsal in his right foot prior to last year's World Cup. A similar lay-off for Strettle would effectively sideline him throughout England's World Cup pool campaign between Sept. 8 and Sept. 28.
Ashton has already ruled uncapped Bristol No. 8 Dan Ward-Smith out of his World Cup plans after he failed to recover in time from a knee injury.
Center Mike Tindall (leg) could also miss the final World Cup squad cut -- a decision could be made today -- while Mark Cueto (groin), Tom Rees (hamstring) and Peter Richards (back) are also currently battling injuries.
Wing Ben Cohen and prop Julian White, meanwhile, both made themselves unavailable for the World Cup during the past few months for personal reasons.
Strettle appeared to be a certainty for Ashton's elite World Cup group. The 24-year-old made a try-scoring Test debut against Ireland during the Six Nations Championship last season, and he also started subsequent games against France and Wales. He toured South Africa with England earlier this summer, but illness dashed his hopes of featuring in the two-Test series.
If Ashton decides to draft a replacement into his training squad, those in contention would probably include Iain Balshaw, James Simpson-Daniel, Tom Voyce and Dan Scarbrough.
Ashton will name his 30-man squad for the Rugby World Cup next Tuesday.
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