Six Nations: England fly-half Owen Farrell rated 50-50 to face Italy

Farrell limped off with a thigh strain in the second half of last weekend's 23-13 victory over France

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The Independent Online

England coach Stuart Lancaster today rated Owen Farrell 50-50 for the RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy at Twickenham on March 10.

Farrell limped off with a thigh strain in the second half of last weekend's 23-13 victory over France and faces a race to be fit for the penultimate hurdle of his team's Grand Slam quest.

"Owen is making good progress and he's 50-50 for the Italy game. In the next week he'll be running, but the problem will be kicking. If there's a doubt we won't risk it," Lancaster said.

England name their team to face Italy tomorrow week and Lancaster will give Farrell every chance to prove his fitness, with Leicester's Toby Flood on standby to replace him.

"We have to make sure that the injury has healed properly so that it doesn't break down again through kicking," Lancaster said.

"Being a fly-half, that's obviously an important part of the job. We'll have to wait and see how that settles down towards the second half of the week.

"You have to let the injury settle to a point where he's beyond fit enough to run.

"Running around is fine, but what you don't want to do is return to kicking too early and return the injury to its current state.

"There will have to be a staged progression in his kicking, which will go gently upwards.

"There's no such thing as breaking yourself in as a fly-half, you're either fit or not.

"We meet on Monday night, we train on Tuesday and Wednesday. We have Thursday off and announce the team on Friday.

"We'll give him time, but equally there comes a point in a week when we run combinations.

"Toby Flood trained really well today and is a good player for us, so I'm not worried in that regard."

Lancaster revealed that Wasps back row Billy Vunipola should be available against Italy, while Ben Morgan is expected to return against Wales on March 16. Both have been suffering from ankle injuries.

Fly-half Freddie Burns returns to Aviva Premiership duty in Gloucester's clash with Bath tomorrow night after recovering from his knee problem.

"It's great that Freddy's fit now. Hopefully he should be good to go, but it will be his first game back in six weeks," Lancaster said.

"From our point of view we need to look at his performance. We have other options on the bench who can cover 10."