Head Coach Eddie Jones has stated that some aspects of the 21-year-olds game still need to be worked on and he doesn’t want to hand him his first cap to early. However the Australians hand could be forced with news that Lawes is struggling with a hamstring injury.
Itoje’s exclusion from the 23-man squad to face Scotland was a surprise to many given his impressive form for Saracens, but on Saturday he provided Jones with a timely reminder of his talents with a man of the match display against Bath.
Jones told Sky Sports, “I went to Saracens – I hid in the stands – and it was the best game I’ve seen Itoje play for them. It was really good, very impressive.”
Before going on to say, “It’s never too late to get in the 23. The 23 isn’t set in stone, but generally speaking the 23 that we kept are the frontrunners. Now they can play themselves out of selection by injury and by attitude, so there are still opportunities.
“Courtney is progressing. We’ll give him until Thursday. It looks pretty positive. He probably won’t train until Thursday but we’re hopeful he’ll be all right.”
Jones hopes to have Tuilagi back for Six Nations climax
Jones also revealed that he hopes to have Leicester Tigers centre back for the final two rounds of the 2016 RBS Six Nations. England v Wales at Twickenham (Saturday 12th March) is the penultimate game of the tournament, and could decide the destination of the Six Nations title.
The centre suffered a minor setback after returning from 15-months out of rugby with a groin strain. But he is still seen as a key man for England going forward with Jones namechecking him as a player who could become one of the world’s best.
He said, “It’s only a slight strain and he was pretty confident. It means he will get a little bit less game time, but we’d hope he’d still be available for the Wales game.”
Brookes returns to Six Nations squad
Eddie Jones was also handed a boost as prop Kieran Brookes returned to the England squad ahead of schedule after suffering a knee injury.
It was thought the Northampton star would miss the entire Six Nations campaign but his swift recovery has seen him leapfrog Bath’s Henry Thomas into the squad. The tighthead prop could feature in the England v Ireland (Saturday 27th February) at Twickenham, in round three of the tournament.
Image Credit – alasdair massie (Flickr)