Bruised liver likely to end Tindall's season

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The Independent Online

Just as Brian Ashton, the England head coach, was beginning his analysis of one of the more jaw-dropping system failures in recent red-rose history – in short, how his side managed to present Wales with a first Twickenham victory in two decades after laying the foundations for what should have been a 30-point stroll – he was presented with a problem every bit as big and twice as urgent.

All four of the players injured during the opening-round Six Nations defeat on Saturday are out of this weekend's trip to Rome, and one of them, Mike Tindall, will almost certainly miss the rest of the championship.

Tindall was initially thought to have suffered rib damage, but closer examination revealed bruising to the liver. He was taken to Hammersmith Hospital in London on Saturday night, and remains there under observation. England's medical staff hold out very little hope of the Gloucester centre featuring in another international this side of the summer's business in New Zealand.

The two open-side flankers whose misfortunes disrupted England so badly during the second half of the match with Wales, Lewis Moody of Leicester and Tom Rees of Wasps, have Achilles' tendon and knee problems respectively. Moody, who left Twickenham on crutches, will be further assessed next week, while Rees, who wrenched a medial collateral ligament, was due to undergo tests today.

Perhaps the most unlucky of the quartet is the Harlequins wing, David Strettle, who missed the recent World Cup after busting the fifth metatarsal in his left foot during training for that tournament.

Early in Saturday's game, he suffered an injury in precisely the same spot after sparking the contest into life with a fine individual run. Like Rees, more should be known about his medium-term prospects by this evening.

All four players have had their careers badly disrupted by injury trauma of one kind or another. Like Strettle, Tindall missed last year's global competition after breaking his leg while on club duty. Moody's many travails have been well documented, while Rees, the younger man by almost six years, already knows what it is to miss an England international programme because of knee trouble.

Ashton has ready-made replacements for Tindall – a player of similarly heavy-duty style in Jamie Noon of Newcastle and a more dashing outside centre in Mathew Tait, who also plays his rugby on Tyneside, albeit in a very different fashion.

There is no obvious debate over Strettle's successor on the left wing. Lesley Vainikolo, the Tongan who played rugby league for New Zealand before declaring himself an Englishman, made his expected brick-outhouse impact off the bench on Saturday, creating a try for Toby Flood and putting the fear of God into Mark Jones, the Wales wing.

There are no simple solutions in the injury-riddled back-row department, however. Michael Lipman of Bath, who was last capped in Australia in 2006, is the last remaining specialist breakaway in the squad.

If Ashton feels he needs reinforcements, he could always send for Magnus Lund of Sale.

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