England lock Charlie Ewels could miss all of the forthcoming season after undergoing knee surgery.
The Bath forward was hurt during England’s preparations for the first Test against Australia in Perth on July 2.
The 27-year-old suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury, with normal recovery time following that diagnosis being nine to 12 months.
“Charlie has been for his operation, which went well, and he will be out for an extended period,” Bath’s new head of rugby Johann van Graan said.
“It was a pretty serious knee injury. He is in good spirits, and he sees it as an opportunity to work on other parts of his game as he goes through the rehab process.
“These type of knee injuries, my experience tells me it is too early to say in terms of length of time.
“Is there a chance (this season)? Potentially, the back end of it, but I wouldn’t want to speculate on it now. It’s way too early.”
Bath are back in training, building towards a Gallagher Premiership opener against their west country rivals Bristol at Ashton Gate on September 9.
And 42-year-old South African Van Graan knows the size of the challenge that awaits him following his arrival from Munster.
Bath finished bottom of the Premiership last season, 60 points behind champions Leicester, and won just five league games.
Only Worcester conceded more points and tries than Bath, who leaked an average of almost 32 points per Premiership match.
“As I said to the board when I came here, there will be some players here where the perception of them might not be that good,” Van Graan added.
“But with the right guidance, they might become superstars in the future.
“It is about getting to know the players, getting them in the right environment and hopefully we will see a lot of guys improving quickly.
“I am under no illusions that there is a whole journey to be undertaken here.
“The first thing I said to the group is we have to become tough to beat. We have to work hard on our habits, embrace change, because there is going to be a lot of change.
“It won’t be perfect in week one, it might not be perfect in year one, but there has to be a progression in terms of our performance on the pitch.”
Bath suffered a number of heavy Premiership defeats last term, including a 71-17 home loss against Saracens and a 64-0 drubbing at Gloucester.
And Van Graan has wasted little time in terms of identifying key areas for improvement.
“We are a team who need to get fitter and improve our performance under pressure,” he said. “Last season, this was a team that conceded a lot of points in the last 20 minutes of games.
“What will that look like? Making sure we have more quality players on the pitch for longer, improving our fitness and having a common goal and connection between the rugby and the medical and conditioning.
“One of the things that has struck me about the Premiership is that the team in 13th place can beat number one on any given day.
“I am not going to make any predictions. It has got to be an improvement from last season, and we want to improve quickly.
“Teams that are successful go through a period of growth. Our challenge will be how quickly can we do that.”