Scotland remain hopeful that Hamish Watson will be able to play some part in the Guinness Six Nations.
Watson fractured a bone in his hand on European duty for Edinburgh last weekend and underwent surgery on Monday to place his participation in the tournament under a cloud.
But it is understood Gregor Townsend’s first choice openside flanker could yet be involved against Wales and England in the final two rounds.
Watson has started 11 of Scotland’s last 12 Tests and Townsend admits it is a blow to lose him for at least a chunk of the Championship.
“Hamish has been a regular player for us over the last couple of seasons,” Townsend said at the Six Nations launch in south west London.
“To lose him is disappointing, but it means there’s another opportunity for someone else.”
Townsend insists the frustration of Watson’s injury is offset by success of Edinburgh and Glasgow in qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup.
“It’s normal that players get injured throughout the season,” Townsend said.
“The Six Nations occurs halfway through the season after a bunch of really competitive European games so it’s no surprise when players get injuries.
“The upside is that Edinburgh and Glasgow have been playing in competitive games. To have them playing in meaningful games before the Six Nations is a good thing.
“Not only to play in them, but to win and qualify for the quarter-finals. It’s given us a lot of confidence coming into this campaign.”
Scotland launch their Six Nations against Italy at BT Murrayfield on February 2 and while they are looking to build on last year’s promising third-placed finish, Townsend is aware of the banana-skin potential of the opening fixture.
“We’ve lost a number of times to Italy. We should have lost to Italy in the Six Nations last year,” Townsend said.
“They are a very tough team to play against and Scotland have found them tough in the past. Treviso are playing well and our players are aware of how Italy are growing as a team and how good they are.
“The expectations in Scotland will be high, but we realise that it’s a very tough game to start the campaign.
“We are in it to win the Six Nations and I imagine that is what every team is focused on.
“Finding that consistency of good to very good performances is what is required from us to be tough to beat, and to win tournaments.
“We might need 10 out of 10 to beat the best teams, but we generally want to be eight or nine out of 10.
“We feel we haven’t played as well as we could have when we’ve gone into games as favourites. They could be home or away games. We’ve risen to the bigger challenges.
“We historically have not been good in away games, but over the last few years all teams in the Six Nations have struggled away from home because the quality of opposition is so strong.
“If you do well away from home, you’ve got a really good chance to do well in the tournament.”