Courtney Lawes ruled out of France clash but Marcus Smith in line to feature for England
Courtney Lawes has been ruled out of England’s Six Nations clash against France, but Marcus Smith is in line to feature after being retained in a 27-player group.
Smith is one of two fly-halves who will prepare for the fixture having been included alongside captain Owen Farrell.
George Ford, kept in camp ahead of Smith for last week’s training days in Brighton, has been allowed to return to Sale Sharks.
Another injury to Lawes, who made his return to action against Wales in Round Three, comes as a blow to head coach Steve Borthwick, who talked up the forward’s leadership qualities when installing him as a vice-captain ahead of the championship.
The 34-year-old now faces a period on the sidelines with a shoulder injury after missing significant portions of this season with glute and calf injuries, as well as an issue with his vestibular system.
The retention of Smith ahead of Ford means Borthwick will now weigh whether to return the fly-half to the starting side.
The Harlequin produced a standout showing for his club side against Exeter at the weekend after featuring sparingly for England against both Italy and Wales.
In his stead, Farrell has united with a centre partnership of Ollie Lawrence and Henry Slade, and the midfield trio could be picked again for the visit of the defending champions.
Intriguingly, centre Manu Tuilagi has also been retained in the trimmed group to prepare for Saturday’s encounter despite currently serving a suspension.
France visit Twickenham seeking a first championship win at the home of English rugby in nearly two decades.
The pair sit level on ten points alongside Scotland after three championship rounds, five points behind unbeaten Ireland.
Borthwick will name his matchday 23 on Thursday.
27-player England squad retained to prepare for France
Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, 8 caps)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 98 caps)
Ben Curry (Sale Sharks, 3 caps)
Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 12 caps)
Ben Earl (Saracens, 15 caps)
Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears, 46 caps)
Jamie George (Saracens, 75 caps)
Nick Isiekwe (Saracens, 10 caps)
Maro Itoje (Saracens, 65 caps)
Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 17 caps)
David Ribbans (Northampton Saints, 3 caps)
Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 59 caps)Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 77 caps)
Jack Walker (Harlequins, 2 caps)
Jack Willis (Toulouse, 8 caps)
Henry Arundell (London Irish, 5 caps)
Owen Farrell (Saracens, 104 caps)
Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby, 10 caps)
Max Malins (Saracens, 17 caps)
Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 14 caps)
Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, 3 caps)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 54 caps)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 20 caps)
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 20 caps)
Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 50 caps)
Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers, 10 caps)
Anthony Watson (Leicester Tigers, 53 caps)