Ben Foden adds to injury woes as England prepare for big Tests
Stuart Lancaster, the England coach, might be more interested in the political argy-bargy surrounding the future of the Heineken Cup if things were just a little quieter on the injury front ahead of an autumn international series in which his team will play southern hemisphere opposition on four consecutive weekends, including the world champions from New Zealand and their nearest challengers in the global rankings, Australia and South Africa. Unfortunately for him, the noise yesterday was very loud indeed.
Northampton announced that Ben Foden, hurt in a man-and-ball tackle by the Bath wing Tom Biggs during a Premiership match at the Recreation Ground last Friday night, had suffered "significant" ankle ligament damage and would be incapacitated for "a number of weeks". On the face of it, Foden's goose is well and truly cooked as far as the Tests in November and December are concerned.
Moved from full-back to left-wing during the summer series in South Africa, he would have been a hot favourite to wear the No 11 shirt against Fiji in a little over eight weeks' time and his likely absence raises an issue. The 32-man senior squad named by Lancaster in July is notably light on wings: the only true specialists are Chris Ashton of Saracens and Charlie Sharples of Gloucester. As things stand, Sharples is also on the injury list, having mangled his right shoulder joint at London Irish 11 days ago.
The coach is already a prop light as a result of Matt Stevens' retirement from international rugby; has lost his second-string hooker, Rob Webber of Bath, to long-term injury; and cannot be sure that any of what might be called his first-choice crocks – the scrum-half Ben Youngs, the prop Alex Corbisiero and the flanker Tom Croft – will be sufficiently fit to challenge for a place against the hard-hitting Fijians. Youngs and Corbisiero were hurt in Springbok country while Croft is still recovering from the serious neck injury he suffered while playing for Leicester at Harlequins in April. There is no immediate prospect of an early return for any of them.
Lancaster will, however, be encouraged by the return of the Northampton forward Courtney Lawes last week and must have reacted with considerable relief to yesterday's news that Tom Johnson, the Exeter back-rower, will recover from a rib injury sooner rather than later. Johnson, a major contributor in the drawn Test with the Boks in Johannesburg in June, left the field on a stretcher midway through his club's weekend defeat at London Welsh but, according to the Devonians, the problem is a lot less serious than originally feared.
Meanwhile, the warring factions left their first Heineken Cup summit in Dublin yesterday with no firm plan, barring an agreement to meet again in Rome on 8 October. A spokesman for the tournament administrators said there had been "productive discussions" on the future of European competition.
English and French clubs have served notice of their intention to quit the existing tournament in 2014 unless major competitive and commercial changes are agreed.
Arsenal vs Tottenham player ratings: Mesut Ozil? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? Nacer Chadli? Who was the star man at the Emirates?
Colombian women's cycling team kit that makes wearer appear naked is branded 'unacceptable' by UCI president
Stoke City vs Newcastle analysis: Window woes leave Alan Pardew bereft of flair
Manchester United risk Uefa row over plan to play lucrative midweek friendlies
Cristiano Ronaldo banner: This is how Real Madrid striker reacted to the stunt by Manchester United fans
- 1 Expert urges cat lovers to own just one animal each
- 2 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 3 The Simpsons death: Creator Al Jean would 'kill himself' before character like Homer or Lisa
- 4 British man raped while urinating in bushes at Oktoberfest beer festival in Germany
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
'Women, walk wherever you want' posters taken down in Stamford Hill following 'unacceptable' signs separating men and women
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so