The crammed holiday fixture list was intended to help England at the end of the season, giving internationals more time to prepare for the World Cup. But in the short term it is looking unhelpful to England. Yesterday Richard Hill, the Bristol head coach, said that the England scrum-half Shaun Perry will be out for a minimum of three weeks after popping a rib cartilage in Wednesday's derby against Bath.
"We hope he will be back in time for the Premiership match at Northampton on 27 January," Hill said. "But it could be longer."
Brian Ashton, the new England head coach, already had worries about the Newcastle centre Jamie Noon, who is not expected to recover from an ankle injury until the middle of next month, as well as the Sale wing Mark Cueto, whose groin injury shows no sign of clearing up. On Boxing Day he was dealt another blow when the Wasps prop Phil Vickery, the favourite to take over the England captaincy from Martin Corry, hobbled out of the match against Gloucester.
Vickery's injury has been diagnosed as a bruised backside and he is expected to be back in training in time for the visit to Bath on New Year's Day, but it is not the ideal start to World Cup year for Ashton.
Pat Howard has confirmed that he is to quit his post as Leicester head coach at the end of the season. Second-placed Tigers had to persuade the former Wallaby to stay on for this season after Howard had said he wanted to return to Australia, where he has business interests.
A Welsh Rugby Union disciplinary panel has banned the Cardiff and Wales flanker Martyn Williams for three weeks after finding him guilty of butting scrum-half Jason Spice in the match against Ospreys last Saturday.Reuse content