St Helens will be without their influential scrum-half Luke Walsh for at least a month after he underwent minor ankle surgery.
The Australian playmaker, who turned 28 on Tuesday, suffered the injury during Saints’ 33-26 First Utility Super League defeat by Catalans Dragons in Perpignan on Saturday and has already had the surgery.
Walsh, in his second season in Super League, was only five weeks into his comeback from an eight-month lay-off with a broken leg and ankle injury.
It is the same ankle he damaged last summer, shortly before breaking his fibula in a match against Widnes Vikings, but St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham told a news conference on Tuesday that he expects his scrum-half to only miss a few weeks – “four to five or so”.
“It is a blow as we have a big block of five games coming up but we will cope and Walsh will return,” Cunningham said.
Walsh, who was forced to sit out last October’s Grand-Final win over Wigan Warriors, also missed the first 10 matches of this season before being re-introduced from the bench and has started Saints’ last three games.
The injury comes less than a fortnight since utility back Lance Hohaia announced his retirement and may mean a return into the halves for skipper Jon Wilkin, who played scrum-half throughout the first half of the season but was able to revert his normal back-row spot for the last three matches.
Cunningham will have a chance to look at his options when Saints take on League 1 York in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup sixth-round tie at Langtree Park on Friday.
The coach says he will take the opportunity to blood more youngsters in that game while resting several regulars.