England are this season's late starters, not beginning their championship programme until 5 February against Scotland at Murrayfield. But even that is unlikely to be enough for Guscott to get over the pelvic problem which has restricted him to two games at centre for Bath and kept him out of England's triumph over New Zealand.
So Guscott will be at next weekend's training at Twickenham, doubtless after watching Bath at Northampton, however little he may be able to do there. 'Jerry is still an England player and it's our policy to keep everyone involved,' Geoff Cooke, the England manager, said yesterday. 'It's vital to get it sorted out and if we have to start and finish the Five Nations without him, so be it.'
Cooke will know more once Guscott is examined by the Rugby Football Union surgeon, Nigel Henderson. The same applies to Kyran Bracken, who has been unable to run since the All Blacks Test when Jamie Joseph trampled on his ankle, though the scrum-half has set the Bristol-Bath cup tie on 22 January as a target.
'I've had some conflicting and confusing diagnoses and, whatever happens, I'm not going to play if I'm still injured,' Bracken said. 'I've kept up my passing practices and general fitness. I had an intensive first three months to the season, so maybe a pause is no bad thing.'
Fit or not, Bracken expects to lose his place to Dewi Morris, whose place against New Zealand he took when Morris developed a chest infection. Despite the training weekend, the team to defend the Calcutta Cup will probably not be chosen until later in the month.
The squad of 24 includes another enforced absentee from the All Blacks match, the 6ft 10in lock Martin Bayfield, who has needed only one comeback appearance for Northampton to win a recall. Cooke will be at Leicester for tomorrow's First Division derby for a check on Bayfield's form as well as fitness. Rory Underwood will miss that match with a knee injury, so brother Tony moves from right to left and Steve Hackney returns on the right.
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