Maro Itoje is a doubt for the start of the Six Nations after it was confirmed that he suffered a fractured jaw in Sunday’s defeat by Harlequins, with the Saracens and England forward facing months on the sidelines.
The 23-year-old will see a specialist after having his jaw examined in the wake of Saracens’ 20-19 defeat at the Twickenham Stoop, during which he was forced off in the 48th minute after a suspected collision with England teammate Mike Brown.
Itoje left the field holding the side of his face with blood visible from a wound inside his mouth, and was immediately taken to hospital for scans on the injury amid fears his jaw was either broken or fractured.
Saracens have now confirmed that Itoje has fractured his jaw, and will see a second specialist this week to determine when he will return to action. England colleague Anthony Watson suffered a similar injury last year, which sidelined the wing for more than two months, and any similar lay-off would make Itoje a major doubt for the start of the Six Nations in the first week of February next year.
Itoje was due to be rested from part of the autumn internationals last month and sat out the opening Test against Argentina in order to regain his fitness, but he was forced to come on during the win over Australia earlier than planned when Sam Underhill suffered a concussion and played the full 80 minutes against Samoa due to a depletion in their back-row options.
England’s first match of the Six Nations against Italy is eight weeks away, and Itoje stands to miss the majority of Saracens’ matches between now and the next international period, if not all of it. It is not yet known if he will require surgery on the injury, but he will miss this weekend’s visit of Clermont Auvergne in a repeat of last season’s Champions Cup final as well as next weekend’s return at the Stade Marcel Michelin, and could even miss the final European group games in January against Ospreys and Northampton Saints, along with the Premiership festive period.
The news is a major blow to Saracens, who are yet to welcome back Itoje’s England teammate Billy Vunipola from a long-term knee injury, although the No 8 is expected to return later this month. The reigning European champions have lost three consecutive Premiership matches for the first time since 2010, and are on a run of five straight defeats in all competitions after back-to-back losses in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
Saracens are due to face Leicester Tigers and Worcester Warriors during the festive period, as well as Wasps ahead of the final European games next month.
Premiership Rugby have also confirmed that Bath have been charged with allowing No 8 Taulupe Faletau play for Wales against South Africa last Saturday. The 27-year-old started the match that fell outside the designated test window, and while Welsh clubs have agreed to release players for such encounters, the Premiership has a directive that recalls international players as soon as the windows close.
As a result, Bath have been charge with "allegedly breaching Premiership Rugby approved policies" and have seven days to respond.
the likelihood is that Bath will receive a financial penalty rather than a points deduction, with a previous incident involving the release of fellow Welsh international George North by Northampton Saints four years ago resulting in a £60,000 fine.