England head coach Eddie Jones looks set to be dealt a double injury blow with Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes looking increasingly unlikely to play a part in the autumn internationals.
Northampton on Wednesday night confirmed that Lawes’ ankle injury will require specialist attention having gone off after just nine minutes of Saints’ defeat to Sale on Tuesday. The England second row was pictured on social media using crutches and wearing a protective right boot. Initial suggestions were that his recovery would take months rather than weeks, although Northampton are hoping to issue a firmer timeframe next week.
Sources at Sale have similar fears for centre Tuilagi who suffered an achilles injury in the same match. A serious achilles injury could mean up to nine months out, which would rule him out of the Six Nations, while insiders believe a best-case scenario would mean three months on the sidelines.
Jones announces a provisional squad, excluding players involved in the Premiership play-offs, on Monday for the match against the Barbarians on October 25. England then must complete their Six Nations campaign against Italy with the title very much on the line before entering into the Autumn Nations Cup where they will face Ireland, Wales and Georgia in their group games.
Both Tuilagi and Lawes are key cogs of Jones’ side having started in last year’s World Cup final. The injury to Lawes may present Jones with a more severe headache after his second-row options were already depleted by George Kruis’ move from Saracens to Japan. Bath locks Charlie Ewels and Elliott Stooke have both previously featured in squads under Jones.
For Tuilagi another fitness setback would be a devastating blow. In a career dogged by injury, Tuilagi was hoping to turn over a new leaf by moving from Leicester to Sale but his wretched luck appears to have followed him to Manchester.