Exeter have been dealt a heavy blow with the news that skipper Dean Mumm will miss the start of the new Premiership campaign.
The Chiefs open their domestic season with a trip to London Welsh on Sunday, September 7 but the 30-year-old former Wallaby lock will still be recovering from a shoulder operation.
Mumm suffered the injury last season, and it has not recovered as the Chiefs had hoped.
"Dean finished the season with a little bit of a shoulder issue. He came back and played the last two games of the campaign against Harlequins and Newcastle, but he came off against Newcastle with a bit of a problem with the shoulder," head coach Rob Baxter told the Exeter Chiefs website.
"It was felt a bit of rest and rehab would sort the problem out, but it became obvious, once we got back into the start of pre-season, that the issue hadn't really improved with a block of rest, so we investigated it a bit further.
"They had an exploratory look in there, and found one or two bits and pieces that needed tidying up and sewing back together, so he has had a shoulder operation to repair some ligament damage.
"The fact we have managed to get on with things now, we are hopeful he won't miss too much of the season.
"He is probably unlikely to feature in the first game of the season, but we are hopeful he will be back fully fit relatively quickly and it will not be a half-a-season job. Hopefully he will able to play for us sometime in that first block of six Premiership games."
Baxter has been searching for another lock to add to his squad, in addition to the summer arrivals of Ryan Caldwell from Bath and Mitch Lees from London Welsh, after the retirement of second rows Tommy Hayes and James Hanks last season and the departure of Romana Graham to La Rochelle.
But he feels no increased urgency to bring someone in to cover for Mumm's injury because Caldwell and Lees, who can also play in the back row, have been doing so well in pre-season training.
"Looking at the squad as it stands, Ryan is training really well, Mitch looks really good and I have been really impressed with those two guys coming in,' said Baxter.
"Will Carrick-Smith is also starting to look like a big, strong man who knows what his body is doing.
"He has had a little bit of a tough time because he has just been growing non-stop, but he is training really, really well. We have got those guys almost as new signings to replace guys who didn't really play very much last season in Tommy Hayes and James Hanks with their injury issues, and we feel pretty comfortable.
"Damian Welch (below) is fully fit now and has come back from his ankle operation and is training full on, and he had a big season for us last year."