Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw will miss the autumn Tests because of a fractured ankle, his club side Clermont Auvergne have announced.
The former Edinburgh and Gloucester scrum-half was injured in his side’s weekend Champions Cup
Laidlaw will be unavailable for Scotland’s home matches against Samoa, New Zealand and Australia next month.
Stand-in skipper John Barclay could also miss out as he continues to battle against an ongoing concussion issue.
Laidlaw is expected to be out for 10-12 weeks but should return in time for Scotland’s Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff in February.
The captain has not played since tearing ankle ligaments in in Paris on Six Nations duty, although Clermont have yet to confirm if his current problem is with the same ankle.
Either of Glasgow Warriors’ scrum-half pair of Ali Price and Henry Pyrgos could deputise in the number nine jersey next month.
Scarlets back-row Barclay is still undergoing Head Injury Assessment (HIA) protocols.
His club boss Wayne Pivac has expressed a fear that Wales prop Rob Evans could be out for a period that would include their 2017 autumn Tests.
“At the moment, both the boys are failing those protocols so they can’t go on to the next step if you like, to get closer to playing,” he said.