London - England lock Courtney Lawes is set to miss the first few weeks of the upcoming Six Nations Championship because of an ankle injury, the Northampton second row's club coach Jim Mallinder said Sunday.
Mallinder, speaking after Northampton's 20-9 European Cup win away to Welsh side Ospreys in Swansea, said Lawes would undergo surgery on Monday.
The Saints coach's comments indicated Lawes will miss both England's Six Nations opener away to Wales in Cardiff on February 6 and their Twickenham encounter with Italy the following week.
Lawes's absence would deprive England coach Stuart Lancaster of both of his first-choice locks given Wasps' Joe Launchbury has been ruled out of the entire Six Nations after undergoing neck surgery.
The 25-year-old Lawes, who missed the Ospreys match, has not played since before Christmas when he suffered the injury against Leicester.
"Courtney, unfortunately, has not recovered from his ankle injury," Mallinder said. "He will be going in for a little operation on Monday.
"He has got a little bit of bone that he just needs clearing out, so he is going to miss the first few weeks of the Six Nations, as well as missing next week (when Northampton face Racing Metro)."
However, Mallinder added: "He would be expected to get back (playing) while the Six Nations is still going on.
"It is a blow for us because we haven't got him for next week, and it is a blow for him and England because he is a key player."
After the first two rounds, the Six Nations takes a break before England face Ireland in Dublin on March 1.
Lawes's career has been beset by injuries, with shoulder, shin, knee, groin and elbow problems restricting him to 36 England caps since he made his Test debut six years ago.
In November, Lawes failed the head injury assessment for suspected concussion after receiving blows to the head in England's 24-21 loss to world champions New Zealand but played in the 31-28 defeat by South Africa a week later.
For England coach Stuart Lancaster, who is due to announce his Six Nations squad on Wednesday, Lawes's injury is the latest blow to his hopes of fielding a settled side ahead of this year's World Cup on home soil.
It now looks as if Geoff Parling and Dave Attwood will, if fit, form England's lock partnership against Wales, with Saracens second row George Kruis only returning from a three-week suspension for a dangerous tackle shortly before the Millennium Stadium match.