Ashton's foot causes latest England headache

England have already half-committed themselves to a change in their midfield configuration following the latest orthopaedic calamity to befall their first-choice No 10 Toby Flood. Now, they are waiting nervously for news of their most threatening outside back. Northampton have been eerily quiet on the subject of Chris Ashton since the free-scoring wing limped off the field after putting two typically sharp tries past Bath at Franklin's Gardens six days ago, and there is some concern amongst the national hierarchy about his precise state of fitness.

Ashton was seen leaving the dressing room area on crutches last Friday night, and was heard to admit that doctors had been unable to conduct an immediate examination of his damaged foot because the pain was too great. A Northampton spokesman said yesterday that Ashton, currently among the two or three most dangerous wings in Europe, was making "good progress", but could not say whether he was being considered for this weekend's big Premiership match at Saracens.

Happily for England, there are options on the wing, especially as David Strettle has hit the ground sprinting after his summer move to Saracens from Harlequins. With Mark Cueto of Sale a near certainty to start against the All Blacks at Twickenham in early November and Matt Banahan of Bath in reserve, the cupboard is nowhere near as Old Mother Hubbardish as it is in some other areas – most notably at No 8 and centre. But if it turns out that Ashton has a serious injury – and foot problems are notoriously complex – the chances of Martin Johnson's side registering a morale-boosting autumn victory over one of the big southern hemisphere nations will be diminished.

One of those SANZAR powers, the reigning world champions South Africa, will head for the British Isles without their unprecedentedly successful captain John Smit, the only Springbok who has both lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy and led his countrymen to a series victory over the British & Irish Lions. The versatile front-row underwent surgery on his neck yesterday and while the surgery was entirely successful, there is no possibility of a return to full-contact rugby before Christmas.

"The timing was right," said Craig Roberts, the Springbok team doctor. "It was not a career-threatening injury, but we wanted to ensure John's availability in 2011 and this gives him a prolonged period of recovery ahead of the southern hemisphere season."

Scotland, meanwhile, have lost one of their senior outside-halves, Phil Godman of Edinburgh, for a minimum of six months. The 28-year-old midfielder tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while training with his club on Tuesday and will require surgical intervention.

"There are many examples of players returning to full international duty having sustained this kind of injury," said Dr James Robson, whose work with Scotland and the Lions has established him as one of the leading medics in the sport. "Phil's rehabilitation starts now. The Edinburgh and Scotland medical teams will be working to deliver him, ready for consideration for the World Cup next year."

Back on the Premiership front, Exeter confirmed their interest in bringing the Australian lock Peter Kimlin to Sandy Park on a short-term deal. The 25-year-old forward is said to have secured clearance from the Canberra-based ACT Brumbies to spend the next few months in England.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz