Wing Watson ruled out of England’s Six Nations opener

By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Union Correspondent, Vilamoura
PA Media: Sport

England have suffered a blow ahead of their Guinness Six Nations clash with France after Anthony Watson was ruled out by a calf problem.

Watson would have started Sunday’s showdown in Paris on the wing or at full-back but now misses the opener because of the injury sustained before joining up with the squad for their Portugal training camp.

The setback means Ollie Thorley or George Furbank will make their debut as a starter, with the other on the bench or dropped from the matchday 23 altogether.

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Watson was superb at the World Cup, where his powerful running was a constant threat to opponents – even if he failed to score the tries his performances deserved.

His absence is a surprise considering repeated positive injury bulletins provided by England, who said Joe Launchbury was the only player conclusively ruled out.

England will at least enter the clash with their preferred hooking duo present after it was confirmed Luke Cowan-Dickie will rejoin the squad on Friday.

Luke Cowan-Dickie is fit for England (David Davies/PA)
Luke Cowan-Dickie is fit for England (David Davies/PA)

Cowan-Dickie departed the Algarve on Tuesday for family reasons, resulting in a contingency plan being drawn up, but is now available and likely to act as cover for Jamie George.

England have retained four locks in a 25-man squad that will be whittled down to a starting XV and bench on Friday morning.

The number of second rows points to Courtney Lawes starting at blindside flanker, with Charlie Ewels potentially on the bench.

England 25-man squad –

Forwards: L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), T Curry (Sale), C Ewels (Bath), E Genge (Leicester), J George (Saracens), M Itoje (Saracens), G Kruis (Saracens), C Lawes (Northampton), L Ludlam (Northampton), J Marler (Harlequins), K Sinckler (Harlequins), W Stuart (Bath), S Underhill (Bath), M Vunipola (Saracens).

Backs: E Daly (Saracens), O Devoto (Exeter), O Farrell (Saracens), G Ford (Leicester), G Furbank (Northampton), W Heinz (Gloucester), J Joseph (Bath), J May (Leicester), O Thorley (Gloucester), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester).

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