Injury has ruled Castleford Tigers scrum-half Luke Gale out of the autumn internationals.
The England half-back missed the mid-season Test against New Zealand with a dislocated patella, but picked up a new knee injury in the play-off semi-final defeat by Wigan last Friday.
It leaves head coach Wayne Bennett without his three half-backs from the 2017 World Cup, with Gareth Widdop, of St George Illawarra, also out with a shoulder injury and Warrington’s Kevin Brown having retired from the international game.
Castleford’s young player of the year Jake Trueman is not likely to be an option either after injury ended his season early.
Gale, the 2017 Man of Steel, was out for almost four months with his fractured kneecap but returned to action in August and was last week named in Bennett’s 24-man squad for the international against France at Leigh on October 17 and the three-match series with the Kiwis.
England were already without Kallum Watkins, Ryan Hall, Ben Currie, Alex Walmsley and James Roby from the World Cup while Sam Burgess pulled out last week to have shoulder and wrist surgery.
An announcement for Burgess’ replacement is expected today with Castleford’s Mike McMeeken in the running.