Harlequins fly-half Demetri Catrakilis is undergoing surgery to clear a blockage in his windpipe.
The South African, brought in from Montpellier in the summer, broke a bone in his throat when double-tackling Gloucester’s Andy Symons with team-mate Jamie Roberts just 13 minutes into his first start for the club.
Catrakilis has been waiting for a piece of skin dislodged in the incident to move away from his windpipe naturally, but that has not happened, so surgery is being used to clear the throat.
Director of rugby John Kingston expects Johannesburg-born Catrakilis to return to his homeland for a couple of weeks as part of his recovery.
“Demetri is having an operation to lift some skin that is causing a slight blockage in his breathing,” he said. “They were hoping this would clear naturally, but they will use surgery to sort it out and then he will have a few weeks of complete rest.
“He will then be all clear to start building up to be ready to go by Christmas. In many ways, the small fractured bone was less of a concern — it was about making sure the breathing was okay.”
In Catrakilis’s absence the spotlight has fallen on 18-year-old Marcus Smith, who is first choice No10 at the club at present just months after completing his A-Levels.
Smith’s ability to handle top‑class rugby has been remarkable and England head coach Eddie Jones included the youngster in his training squad last month.
Smith continued his development with his European Champions Cup debut on Saturday, kicking 12 points in the 34-27 defeat by La Rochelle.
Kingston admits Smith’s progress has been rapid, saying: “I signed Demetri to replace Nick Evans because he is an incredible organiser and controller on the pitch.
“Marcus has come from left field and is clearly an extreme talent and would have been around the first team. However, Demetri’s injury has propelled him forward.”
Kingston hopes to discover the full extent of Jack Clifford’s shoulder injury by the end of the week. Back-row forward Clifford was hurt during the Premiership win over Sale 11 days ago.