London - England centre Manu Tuilagi could miss next year's Six Nations after his club Leicester revealed on Tuesday that he will be sidelined until February with a chest injury.
The 22-year-old has undergone surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle, having initially sustained the injury in an English Premiership match in September.
"Manu Tuilagi has not been able to recover fully from the pec muscle injury with rehab and he had surgery yesterday (Monday) to repair that," said Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill.
"He had a reaction right at the end of the rehab process so that was the right thing to do. He will be out for probably three months.
"That's disappointing because we hoped to have him back in the next few weeks. It's a blow for him and for us."
England's Six Nations campaign ends on March 15, meaning Tuilagi has little margin for error in his bid to return to fitness in time to play a part in the tournament.
In Tuilagi's absence, Billy Twelvetrees and Joel Tomkins have been paired in midfield for England's November Test match series, which concludes on Saturday against New Zealand.