Throat surgery to rule Demetri Catrakilis out until Christmas

Demetri Catrakilis is stretchered from the field during Harlequins' win over Gloucester last month. Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Harlequins

Demetri Catrakilis has suffered another setback in his bid to replace Nick Evans as the Harlequins playmaker after undergoing surgery on his throat Tuesday that will keep him sidelined until Christmas.

Catrakilis sustained a fractured bone in his throat area while making a tackle on Gloucester centre Andy Symons on Sept. 9. However, his breathing was also affected by a piece of skin that was impeding his windpipe and the surgery has been undertaken to solve that problem.

The former Montpellier fly-half, signed in the summer to replace the now retired Evans -- who is first team attack coach -- is expected to return to South Africa to recover from the surgery. It means 18-year-old Marcus Smith will have an extended run as first choice fly-half, including Sunday's must-win Champions Cup match against Wasps at the Ricoh Arena.

John Kingston, the Quins director of rugby, said: "Demetri is having an operation to lift some skin that is causing a slight blockage in his breathing. They were hoping this would clear naturally but they are going to use surgery to sort it out and then he will be having a few weeks of complete rest.

"He will then be all clear to start building up to be ready to go by Christmas. In many ways the small fractured bone he suffered was less of a concern -- it was about making sure that the breathing was OK for an elite athlete. The scan last week led to the decision to opt for the surgery."

Quins also have more experienced outside-half options in Tim Swiel and James Lang, who is just back from an early season injury, and they are likely to be given game time in the coming weeks to ease the burden on Smith.

Kingston admits Smith's progress has been rapid and added: "I signed Demetri to replace Nick Evans because he is an incredible organiser and controller on the pitch. Marcus has come from left field and is clearly an extreme talent and would have been around the first team. However, Demetri's injury has propelled him forward."

The Quins boss is still waiting to discover if England flanker Jack Clifford will avoid surgery on his right shoulder injury. "We will have more clarity on the route we want to go with Jack [Clifford] by the end of the week;" Kingston added.