ESPNcricinfo understands Manu Tuilagi will miss the final eight games of the season due to a knee injury.
The All Blacks skipper suffered the injury during the All Blacks’ 25-20 victory over the Wallabies in Auckland last Sunday.
The 33-year-old has been recovering from the knee injury for several weeks.
“He’ll be out for the whole season, hopefully we can have him back in the team in the second half of the year,” Head Coach Warren Gatland told reporters in Auckland on Friday.
“That’s a big deal for him, it’s really unfortunate.”
Auckland flanker Michael Hooper, who had a knee reconstruction surgery in September, is also likely to miss the first two weeks of the NRL season with a groin injury.
Tuilagi suffered the knee problem during the opening half of last season and has been sidelined with a knee issue since the All Black’s win over the New Zealand Warriors on October 25.
Manu Tuilaagi’s injury has forced him to miss several weeks of action.
Photo: Getty ImagesThe injury could cause significant disruption to the All-Black attack in Auckland.
“It’s a tough injury, we’ve been working on it for the last couple of weeks and we’re hopeful we’ll be able to get him back into the side,” Gatland said.
“We’ll have to see what the prognosis is for him in the next week or so.”
Tuiligi is set to play in his second Rugby League World Cup tournament, after he helped New Zealand to a record-breaking World Cup final victory in 2013.
He will join fellow All Blacks Aaron Smith and Aaron Cruden in the line-up for the All Stars match against South Africa at Eden Park on October 31.
The Wallabies will be without their most experienced hooker for the first time since the death of David Pocock in October last year.
Truro hooker Dane Haylett-Petty has returned to training this week after missing the entire 2015 season with injury.