It has been an uneasy week for the England coach, Clive Woodward, as he turns his thoughts to the opening game of the Six Nations tournament against Scotland on 2 February.
Woodward could find himself without Austin Healey, who faces a disciplinary hearing tomorrow, as well as Healey's fellow scrum-half, Matt Dawson. That possible double setback raises the prospect of an uncapped player – probably Nick Walshe, Hall Charlton or Harry Ellis – filling a bench role as the No 9 back-up to Kyran Bracken at Murrayfield.
Dawson anticipates being out of action for around five weeks after suffering ankle ligament damage during Northampton's Heineken Cup defeat at Glasgow. "I would look to be back in five weeks or so," Dawson said. "It is a shame, because my form has been good."
Healey faces a Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearing to answer an allegation that he kicked the Sale wing Anthony Elliott during Leicester's game against their Zurich Premiership rivals last month. If found guilty, then Healey, who has started Test matches for England as a wing, scrum-half and fly-half, could face a six-week ban.
He is currently being selected on the wing by Woodward, but Healey's versatility also saw him cover the scrum-half position when England claimed autumn wins against Australia and South Africa.
Had Bracken been injured in either of those games, then Healey would have switched roles. That option may now be taken away from Woodward though, whose alternatives include Saracens' reserve scrum-half Walshe, Newcastle's Charlton or the 19-year-old Leicester prospect Ellis.
Charlton and Ellis are members of England's 27-man development squad, although both Walshe and Wasps' twice-capped Martyn Wood offer greater experience, along with Leeds' Scott Benton, who made his solitary Test appearance in Australia more than three years ago.
Meanwhile, Tony Diprose, the England back rower, stressed the importance of promoting the game in schools at the RFU's latest inner-city coaching clinic at Langdon School in East Ham yesterday.
RFU development officers hosted the training session alongside Diprose as part of a programme that has been running for three years. The Schools Minister, Stephen Timms, Diprose and the RFU council member and former England international Simon Halliday were also present.
"We're keen to show the investment that the game wants to make in youth," Halliday said. "There are a lot of talented players out there and all schools should be encouraged to produce players. But you don't necessarily have to go all the way to the top."
Diprose added: "You could see from their faces that the kids really enjoyed it and that's what it's all about. Hopefully, some of the guys and girls out there today will go and join their local club and stay involved in the game."
While the RFU will be hoping to discover an England star of the future, the main focus of the scheme is participation and enjoyment, Diprose said.
Fiji's Marika Vunibaka, who was cited for punching during a World Sevens Series semi-final last Saturday, has been banned for 12 weeks.
The winger's ban starts with immediate effect and will end on 31 March. Vunibaka threw a punch towards the end of Fiji's semi-final against New Zealand in Santiago, Chile, triggering an all-out brawl. Both teams were cautioned and reprimanded after New Zealand's 19-17 win.Reuse content