Moody likely to be fit to face New Zealand

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The Independent Online

Lewis Moody is on track to captain England against New Zealand on November 6 after making a rapid recovery from an eye injury which initially left him fearing for his sight.

The Bath flanker damaged his left eye socket against Gloucester on October 1 and he was left with "virtually no vision out of that eye" until the following day.

Medics later diagnosed the injury as severe bruising and the anticipated four-week recovery period left Moody's hopes of leading England against the All Blacks in the balance.

But England team manager Martin Johnson revealed last night that Moody could be ready to play for Bath against his old club Leicester this weekend.

Moody is also likely to be released from England's pre-autumn training camp to play against Harlequins on October 31 to ensure he is in top condition to tackle the top team in world rugby.

"Lewis is pretty good. I don't know if he will play this week, it's touch and go - but he will possibly play the week after. We anticipate him being fit for rugby (in time for the New Zealand game)," said Johnson.

Moody left Leicester for Bath in the summer after 14 seasons at Welford Road and he is anxious to be involved at the weekend.

"I have been amazed at the speed of the recovery. Hopefully I will be fit as I will be very frustrated if I miss that one," he said.

Johnson stopped short of confirming Moody would retain the captaincy if fit - but it would be a shock if he did not.

England have progressed well since Moody took over the captaincy from Steve Borthwick at the end of last season's RBS 6 Nations championship.

Johnson's men were narrowly beaten in Paris by Grand Slam champions France, despite being the better side on the day, and they then bounced back from a disappointing defeat to Australia in Perth to level the series with a 21-20 victory in Sydney.

Chris Ashton, Courtney Lawes, Dan Cole and Ben Youngs all starred at the Olympic Stadium that night - four players who have broken into the England team in the last 12 months.

"What is coming together more than ever is the team thing," said Johnson.

"We have been through some tough times and that is part of the road you travel and we will be stronger for it. The Sydney win came out of those times.

"That strength of spirit is coming now. This autumn we play the number one-ranked team in the world in New Zealand. You have to play these guys to improve.

"You saw the improvement game-on-game in Australia. You have to play the best in the world if you want to challenge. The team is going in the right direction."