Courtney Lawes has become a major doubt for England’s Six Nations opener against Scotland as Steve Borthwick contends with a mounting casualty list that includes an escalating crisis at hooker.
In the latest setback to an injury-hit season, Lawes incurred calf damage during Northampton’s clash with La Rochelle on Saturday and undergoes a scan on Monday.
The 33-year-old flanker missed the autumn because of concussion before his comeback was further delayed by a glute injury and now one of England’s two vice-captains will miss at least one week of training.
Although yet to be ruled out of the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham on February 4, Lawes’ prospects are looking bleak, leading to David Ribbans’ promotion into the 36-man squad that gathers on Monday night.
George McGuigan could also miss the opener because of a knee injury, placing strain on England’s resources at hooker in the wake of the concussion sustained by Jamie George while on Saracens duty against Edinburgh on Sunday.
George will undergo the return to play protocols and, with Luke Cowan-Dickie missing at least the start of the Six Nations because of an ankle injury, the options in the number two jersey are dwindling.
“Both Courtney and George are undergoing scans today (Monday) and are seeing specialists for the results of those scans as soon as possible,” Borthwick said at the tournament’s launch in central London.
“Then we will have a full understanding of the extent of their injuries and their plans thereafter.
“Both are out of training this week. That’s definite but they are not necessarily out of training for next week.
“Clearly neither injury looked good but what I’d rather do is get the full information and then make a plan.
“Jamie was good after the game but he now follows the return to play protocols.”
Tom Dunn of Bath fills the vacancy in the squad created by McGuigan’s knee issue with uncapped rookie Jack Walker the only other hooker in the squad.
In addition, versatile back Elliot Daly and prop Mako Vunipola are struggling with respective hamstring and foot problems and are awaiting medical assessment.
“The game against Scotland is a week on Saturday so there is plenty of water to go under the bridge between now and then,” Borthwick said.
“We’ve got a good squad and players who are desperate for the opportunity. Whenever there is a setback it opens up an opportunity for somebody else.
“Players have got to grab those opportunities with both hands and not let go. You need a squad where players are competing for places.
“We’ve got to build greater depth. These opportunities allow players to show they can be Test players.”