FREDDIE Burns' knee injury is jeopardising his Six Nations chances – but Rupert Harden could be fit to face Bath on Saturday.
Fly-half Burns' knee ligament problem is worse than first thought.
The 22-year-old playmaker will now be sidelined longer than the initially-expected two weeks, with the knee problem sustained in Gloucester's 36-16 Mont de Marsan victory on January 19.
Burns should make his return comfortably before the end of the Six Nations tournament.
But Gloucester coach Carl Hogg thinks this small setback could damage his chances of breaking into Stuart Lancaster's team during the famous European contest.
Forwards coach Hogg believes Burns will have to play his way into Gloucester form on his injury return before pushing into the England line-up – and that may just prove too tall an order.
There is better news on Gloucester's tighthead prop injury glut though: Harden could be fit for Saturday's West Country derby, and Shaun Knight in time for Gloucester's Premiership clash at Northampton a week later.
Hogg explained: "It's going to be longer than a couple of weeks for Freddie but it's not massively serious.
"We're hopeful it won't be too long.
"The key thing for Freddie is to make sure he comes back fit and ready.
"If he's out for two or three weeks then it's more than likely he'll come back through Gloucester first before England, which is to our benefit.
"Unfortunately for Freddie he's picked up an injury at the worst time for him with regards to his England career.
"But we just need to manage him properly, make sure he gets proper rehab and we'll assess it from there.
"It's frustrating for Freddie but that's professional rugby, you're always going to have injuries and there's never a good time for that to happen.
"The timing is unfortunate for Freddie but I'm sure he'll have plenty more Six Nations in the future, and it's about getting the injury treated and managed properly in the next few weeks."
England start their Six Nations campaign by hosting Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday (kick-off 4pm), straight after Gloucester host Bath in the LV=Cup at Kingsholm (kick-off 2pm).
Luckless Burns will have to wait to add to his one England cap, picked up in the impressive 38-21 autumn victory over New Zealand.
While Hogg thinks Burns will have to prove his fitness with Gloucester before returning to the England fold, he also expects the talented outside-half still to return shortly.
He continued: "We've got an excellent physio department under Bob Stewart and a fantastic strength and conditioning department under Paddy Anson, and these are the guys that will guide Freddie in his recovery.
"We've got wonderful staff back there, and in conjunction with Nigel we'll make the right decisions for Freddie along with the player himself too.
"It's generally a joint decision between all parties when will be the right time for him to come back.
"We won't rush him back before he's ready, and hopefully this won't be a big thing, but it will be slightly longer than we first expected."
Dario Chistolini's calf injury in Saturday's 26-7 Northampton defeat raised fears of a serious tighthead prop shortage.
Matson-born Knight pulled out of England Saxons' clash with Irish Wolfhounds in Galway on Friday with knee trouble.
And 27-year-old Harden has not played since damaging his neck in Gloucester's 47-3 Amlin Challenge Cup victory over London Irish at Kingsholm on December 15.
Harden ought to be ready for his first game for seven weeks on Saturday then, leaving Hogg a relieved man.
Hogg added: "Rupert's one that we're hoping to get back this week.
We'll try to get him back involved at the weekend, and that's a welcome return.
"We obviously lost Dario Chistolini to a calf injury at the weekend, and we're still looking at a timescale around that.
"But it's nice to get Rupert back in the mix and hopefully Shaun won't be too far behind him.
"Shaun won't be ready for this week, but we're working with a view to having him ready for the following week, with any luck.
"You're always going to get injuries, but what you don't want is one or two injuries in the same position.
"That would leave us light, as it would any other squad."