SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 17: Asu Kepaoa of the Tigers lays injured on the field during the round six NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Wests Tigers at Stadium Australia, on April 17, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Tigers back Asu Kepaoa return to the playing field is set to be significantly delayed after seeking surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle.

As first reported by The Sydney Morning Herald on Friday, the 21-year-old could miss up to half of the 2022 NRL season after sustaining his latest setback on the track during the week.

The Auckland-born winger-come-centre has not played under head coach Michael Maguire since Round 6 of the 2021 season when he was helped from ANZ Stadium after rupturing his ACL.

The former Rooster was in line for a Round 1 return, however, as stated by journalist Michael Chammas, Kepaoa will now miss anywhere between eight to 12 weeks of Wests' upcoming campaign.

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Kepaoa's latest setback comes as another blow for Maguire who will also be without Adam Doueihi and Tommy Talau given they too are recovering from respective ACL ailments.

Maguire will now be forced to shuffle a deck that contains imports Starford Toa, Junior Tupou, Oliver Gildart and Tyrone Peachey in an effort to find sufficient coverage for the trifecta of absences.

Dual trial contests against the Sea Eagles and Roosters next month will at least provide the premiership-winning steward an opportunity to tinker with combinations before Wests face Melbourne on March 12 to kick-off their home-and-away schedule.