London Welsh's Gavin Henson is set to be out of action for at least six weeks with a fractured cheekbone and so miss the start of the new English Premiership season.
Henson suffered the injury during London Welsh's 23-17 friendly loss to Llanelli Scarlets on Saturday after a tackle by Deacon Manu in the opening minute eventually saw him replaced shortly before half-time.
A club statement Sunday said: "London Welsh can confirm that Gavin Henson suffered a minor fracture to his cheekbone during London Welsh's pre-season friendly with the Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.
"It is anticipated that Gavin will return to full contact training in six weeks," the statement added.
If the Exiles prognosis is correct, Henson will miss newly promoted London Welsh's Premiership opener at home to English giants Leicester on September 2 and their clash away to champions Harlequins the following week.
And it may be that the 30-year-old Henson is not fit to return until the European Challenge Cup match at home to Stade Francais on October 13.
London Welsh head coach Lyn Jones, speaking before the statement was issued, said: "We're hoping for the best, but if it's the worst he's not the first player to get injured and we'll just have to be patient and deal with it.
"You've got to deal with thunderbolts all the time.
"No player wants to get injured in a pre-season friendly because it's hugely frustrating because of all the hard work that's been done leading up to the start of the season."
Henson was sacked by Cardiff Blues, his fourth club in little more than a year, in April over his drunken behaviour on a flight returning from a game in Glasgow.
He played an integral part in Wales' 2005 and 2008 Grand Slam campaigns but injuries and off-field problems have interrupted a career that also includes a tour of New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions seven years ago.