Scotland star Stuart Hogg’s injury situation has been described as “an improving picture” as the countdown to this season’s Guinness Six Nations continues.
Hogg has missed Exeter’s last three games, including a Heineken Champions Cup appointment with the Bulls in South Africa last weekend, due to a heel injury.
But Exeter rugby director Rob Baxter believes Hogg is on course to recover in time for the Six Nations.
Scotland’s opening fixture is against England at Twickenham on February 4, before Wales travel to Murrayfield seven days later.
Full-back Hogg, who has won 96 caps, is comfortably the most experienced player named by Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend in his Six Nations squad.
“The heel is improving,” Baxter said.
“We gave him until the Saturday before we flew (to South Africa). He still couldn’t run with pace or any distance.
“It is an improving picture, but he is still not training.
“It is not like a significant ligament or cartilage (problem) or something like that, so there is an expectation he will come through this in time for the Six Nations.”
Baxter, meanwhile, has backed Chiefs wing Jack Nowell to recover strongly from the disappointment of not being selected for England’s Six Nations squad.
Along with fellow wing Jonny May and number eight Billy Vunipola, Nowell was a big-name absentee when England head coach Steve Borthwick named his 36-man group.
Nowell, who is closing in on 50 caps, made his England debut nine years ago.
Baxter added: “He will be disappointed because he is a very competitive man.
“I can quite easily see him demanding his way back into the squad with the quality of his performances.
“If someone said to me I would have Jack Nowell available for every game (during the Six Nations) I would bite their hand off, of course I would. He’s been a great player for us, he is a senior player.
“On the one hand, I am absolutely delighted he is here, but on the other hand I feel for him because he wants to play for England. It’s a double-edged sword, really.
“I am sure he can deal with this. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see almost a man-of-the-match performance from him on the weekend.”