Newcastle Falcons' star outside half Jonny Wilkinson
Newcastle Falcons will go into their make-or-break Heineken Cup round 6 match against Newport-Gwent Dragons without England hero Jonny Wilkinson.
Wilkinson's knee gave way in the second half of his side's 33-12 loss to Perpignan, and he was rushed to hospital immediately.
But the star outside-half has escaped serious after a scan revealed the World Cup match-winner had suffered a strain of the medial ligament of his left knee.
Wilkinson will not be fit for the start of England's Six Nations campaign, and will play no part in the Falcon's final Pool match against the Dragons next weekend.
Director of rugby Rob Andrew Newcastle said: "He had an MRI scan last night and there is quite a lot of relief that it is not as bad as it could have been.
It is a medial ligament problem. It is a fairly common injury in the game and most medics would say it needs a minimum of four to six weeks of rehabilitation and there is no surgery involved."
And Andrew admitted his side deserved to lose the match - a result that has thrown Pool 5 wide open.
"Perpignan did deserve to win, although there were a few refereeing decision which went against us and they turned out to be crucial," he said.
"We should have fought back for the bonus point, though. The next game is going to be very important, but the Pool is still in our hands."
Newcastle lead Pool 5 on 17 points, with Perpignan and Newport Gwent Dragons poised in behind on 15. The Falcons host the Dragons next Sunday, with Perpignan travelling to Pool cellar dwellers Edinburgh.
The first half was a tight affair, with Wilkinson and opposite number Manny Edmonds swapping three penalty goals each, but Perpignan moved up a gear in the second 40 minutes.
Lock and man of the match Rimas Alvarez Kairelis scored two tries as the French club secured a crucial bonus point, with the Falcons adding only another Wilkinson penalty goal to their tally.
Alvarez-Kairelis said afterwards: "It was always going to be a physical game, and our forwards worked very hard.
"I was lucky to score two tries and this win has rekindled our chances of qualification."
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.