If the Northampton lock Courtney Lawes was aghast at presenting the Scarlets centre Scott Williams with a match-winning try at the back end of last Saturday's tight England-Wales game at Twickenham, he was even less happy yesterday. Lawes, stripped of the ball in embarrassing style by Williams after taking the field as a replacement, is suffering from inflammation of the right tibia, is currently on crutches and may not return to full training before the conclusion of the Six Nations.
The World Cup forward had the injury scanned on Tuesday before consulting an orthopaedic specialist. "It's unfortunate, but we have to listen to expert medical opinion," said Stuart Lancaster, the caretaker England coach.
Lancaster is now likely to recall Tom Palmer to his match-day squad for next weekend's Six Nations match in Paris. Palmer, who plays his club rugby in that very city with Stade Français, was dropped after participating in the victories over Scotland and Italy.
On the Premiership front, relegation-threatened Newcastle can boost their survival chances by beating the leaders Harlequins at Kingston Park tonight. The Tynesiders could move to within a point of 11th-placed Wasps, the former champions now in freefall, and have the lock Adriaan Fondse back in the engine room following suspension.
Quins, six points clear of the field despite losing three of their last half-dozen league games, have a trio of England squad members – the full-back Mike Brown, the centre Jordan Turner-Hall and the prop Joe Marler – back in the starting line-up after release from Test camp. Nick Easter, ditched by the red-rose hierarchy following the World Cup misfire in New Zealand, captains the side from No 8, while the troubled scrum-half Danny Care, jettisoned by England for disciplinary reasons, continues at the base of the pack.