STUART Fielden faces a race against time to be fit for Wigan’s opening game of the Super League season.
The England Test prop was due to go under the knife today to have a ‘clean out’ of his knee.
It is only a minor procedure which only usually rules players out for between two to three weeks.
But with Warriors’ opening game of Super League XVI just 18 days away, it puts his involvement in their Millennium Magic encounter against St Helens on February 12 in doubt.
Fielden may instead make his first appearance of the new campaign the following week, at former club Bradford, ahead of the World Club Challenge showdown with St George-Illawarra days later.
The 31-year-old had a small knee operation when he returned from Four Nations duty at the end of last year.
He was expected to face Salford in Wigan’s opening pre-season friendly, but his knee was still not right and after having the joint further examined, doctors decided that another operation was the best course of action.
If Fielden is not fit for the Magic weekend, Wigan still have plenty of options at prop, with Andy Coley, Jeff Lima, Paul Prescott, fit-again Lee Mossop and Eamon O’Carroll – who has been plagued by injury problems for the last two years – jostling for positions.
Fielden will, of course, miss this Sunday’s final warm-up game at Warrington, a match that is likely to see Michael Maguire field his strongest possible line-up from his fit and available players.
But one player who won’t figure is winger Karl Pryce, who will begin training with Harlequins this week after tying up a loan move to the capital along with young half-back Joe Mellor. Quins coach Rob Powell said: “We’re very excited to have Joe and Karl on board for 2011.”
Pryce, who played in Wigan’s friendly win at Salford earlier this month, has only played in 16 games during his three years with Wigan.
And even though the Warriors will start the campaign without one of their frontline wingers – Pat Richards – Maguire is prepared to let him leave on loan.
Mellor, who has yet to make his Super League bow, missed most of last season’s Under-20s campaign due to a serious knee injury.