England short of options after Wood ruled out

 

Tom Wood, the Northampton flanker who has been a short-odds favourite to lead England through a challenging Six Nations, was yesterday declared off-limits by an orthopaedic specialist. Wood has been suffering from problems with his left big toe for some time and missed his club's impressive Heineken Cup victory over the Scarlets in Llanelli last weekend. Following a scan, he has been told to wear a protective boot, as opposed to a rugby boot, for the next month.

That means he will miss, as a minimum, the match against Scotland a fortnight tomorrow, the clash with Italy in Rome seven days later and the home meeting with Wales on 25 February. In all likelihood, he is out of the Six Nations altogether – a significant blow to England and their caretaker coaching team of Stuart Lancaster, Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell.

Wood's club captain, the hooker Dylan Hartley, has been mentioned as a possible skipper and there has been popular support for the hard-working Harlequins loose forward Chris Robshaw. The Leicester fly-half Toby Flood also has his backers, not least because he is guaranteed a starting place now Jonny Wilkinson has retired from Tests. But Flood is injured, Robshaw has next to no international experience and Hartley was some way short of his best at last year's World Cup and is still in the process of rescaling the heights. One way or another, Lancaster and company could have done without this news.

Meanwhile, reach for the abacus. Late January is the time of year when Heineken Cup arithmetic reduces work on the Large Hadron Collider to the level of Key Stage One addition and, sure enough, the calculators and logarithm tables have been in evidence all week. Tonight, Harlequins travel to the far west of Ireland for a decisive pool game that will decide their fate in this season's tournament. Or not. Confusing? Well, no one ever pretended it was simple.

The Londoners forced their way back into contention for a quarter-final spot by beating Toulouse, the most successful team in the history of the competition, in south-west France and kept themselves in the hunt with a nerve-shredding victory over Gloucester at The Stoop last weekend. All they have to do now is beat Connacht in Galway, scoring four tries in the process, and then wait. The wait could be as short as a few seconds or as long as 40 hours-plus, depending on what happens in areas as diverse as the west of England, the east coast of Scotland, the capital of Wales and the Massif Central.

Gloucester could do their rivals a major-league favour by beating Toulouse in this evening's simultaneous kick-off at Kingsholm. There again, the four-time champions are travelling in strength and can afford to leave two of the French squad who went within a point of winning the World Cup last autumn in the form of wing Vincent Clerc and the prop Jean-Baptiste Poux, on the bench. If Gloucester's selection suggests they will throw the kitchen sink at this one, the Toulouse line-up is an even greater declaration of intent. Médard, Jauzion, Poitrenaud, Beauxis, Servat, Albacete, Dusautoir... they all start.

Should Toulouse register any sort of victory, they will leave the Londoners contesting one of the two best runners-up places. Just to make life complicated, Clermont Auvergne, Ulster, Cardiff Blues and Edinburgh are in the equation. Clermont and Ulster face each other tomorrow and, should Quins fall short, the Irish side will rise above them in the pecking order if they gain anything in France.

The Blues-Edinburgh tangle will not be unknotted until Sunday, when the Welshmen take on Racing Métro and the Scots meet London Irish at Murrayfield. Both are a point ahead of Quins and will stay ahead of them, whatever tonight's result in Galway, if they take winning bonuses.

Is that clear? Excellent.

Heineken Cup status: Who needs what?

Pool 1

Munster have won the group. Northampton need to better the Scarlets' result to be second. If level, Scarlets win on head-to-head.

Pool 2

The Cardiff Blues need to match Edinburgh's result to win the group. The other side will be runners-up.

Pool 3

Leinster are group winners. Glasgow, Montpellier and Bath cannot qualify for the last eight.

Pool 4

Ulster need to avoid defeat at Clermont to win group. Leicester can still finish as runners-up.

Pool 5

Saracens win the group unless they lose heavily at Treviso and Biarritz beat Ospreys with a bonus point. Ospreys or Biarritz can be second.

Pool 6

Toulouse need to better Harlequins' result to stay top. The other side will finish as runners-up.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
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

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little