ALUN Wyn Jones has been ruled out for the remainder of the Ospreys' Heineken Cup pool stage campaign — and could be sidelined for much of the Six Nations.
Both region and country were today given the news that they didn't want to hear on the 27-year-old lock, who left the field in obvious pain during Wales's 26-12 defeat by Argentina.
The Ospreys' captain is to undergo surgery on the injury he sustained to his left shoulder and could be out of action for up to 16 weeks, meaning he would be looking at a return in early March.
When the need to achieve match-fitness is factored into the equation, Jones could be struggling to figure in the Six Nations, which could have implications for his bid to make the Lions tour.
Ospreys head physio Chris Towers confirmed: "Alun is due to undergo the surgery at the end of this week, and we will be looking at a 12-16 week rehab process post-op to get him back on the field."
It is a cruel blow for Jones, who had started the season in outstanding form for his region.
The 67-cap second row was injured just before half-time against the Pumas, a hit from Manuel Carizza doing the damage.
Jones is now digging in for a long-haul recovery, with the Ospreys' medical team having decided yesterday that he requires an operation.
"After carefully reviewing the scans and discussing the best management of the injury with specialists, in light of the extent of the ligament damage, the recommendation was made for Alun Wyn to undergo surgery to reconstruct the AC joint ligaments in order to give him the best chance of making a full recovery," ran a statement from the region.
The Ospreys will now have to find a new captain and a lock to fill in for the inspirational former Swansea player.
And Wales will have a void to plug as well, notwithstanding second row being a source of strength for Rob Howley, with Ian Evans, Bradley Davies and Luke Charteris in his squad.
But Jones had hit such form he was arguably being seen as Wales's premier lock before this series started.
If he does manage to make it back within 12 weeks he would be looking at an early February return, causing him to miss the early rounds of the Six Nations.
But if his time out extends for another month he would risk having no Test opportunities to impress the Lions coaches, though
Warren Gatland at least knows what he can do.
Cover options for the Ospreys include James King, Ian Gough and Lloyd Peers, drafted into Wales's training squad this week, while Ryan Jones or Jonathan Thomas could be asked to move up from the back row.
But with Toulouse to face home and away in early December, and Adam Jones already a doubt for those games, the Pro12 champions are clearly up against it.