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Wilkinson a major doubt

Jonny Wilkinson is a major doubt for England's November meetings with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa after suffering suspected knee ligament damage on duty for his club Newcastle.

The injury curse that has blighted the flyhalf's career since the 2003 World Cup struck again on Tuesday evening when the England flyhalf was carried off during his club Newcastle's English Premiership defeat at Gloucester.

The 29-year-old, who hardly played between the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, only returned from a six-month lay-off in September following shoulder surgery.

The latest injury came after 25 minutes after he twisted his knee at a ruck that had formed following one of his trademark tackles on Gloucester's Olly Morgan.

Newcastle rugby director Steve Bates said: "It looks like it is something to do with his left knee.

"It looks like it is some sort of ligament damage, but we will have to see how it settles down in the next couple of days. "Jonny is a great competitor.

He didn't want to come off. Hopefully, it might not be as serious as it looked." England are due to begin their November Test series against the Pacific Islanders in just over five weeks time before facing all three Tri-Nations sides on successive weekends.

Ironically, an injury to Wilkinson could make life easier for England's head coach Martin Johnson, who looks set to have 20-year-old Danny Cipriani available to him in November. Cipriani is due to make his earlier-than-expected comeback from a serious ankle injury on Wednesday, when his club Wasps face Bath.

But Wilkinson's heir apparent cannot be called into the England squad unless someone is injured or suspended as he was left out of a 32-man elite squad named by the Rugby Football Union back in July. At the time, it was anticipated that Cipriani would not be back in action before mid-November and he was effectively ruled out of the November series. With Wilkinson having departed after 25 minutes, Newcastle went down to a 39-23 defeat in which Gloucester wing Iain Balshaw claimed a hat-trick of tries.

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