Shaw joins England's lengthening early-season casualty list

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Another day, another injury. Simon Shaw of Wasps, one of the second-row forwards in England's élite squad, will miss the Premiership game with London Irish on Friday night because of a broken finger. The 31st member of the party that won the World Cup in 2003 - he was summoned midway through the tournament as cover for the stricken Danny Grewcock but did not set foot on the field - hopes to resume duty in another derby against Harlequins on Sunday week, but this is by no means guaranteed.

"It's frustrating," Shaw admitted yesterday. "It happened in the last five minutes of the match with Saracens last weekend. I really don't want to miss more than I can help, so I'll make every effort to get back for the Quins game. It may be that I'll be unavailable for that one as well, though."

The early casualty list at the top end of the English game is startling. James Simpson-Daniel of Gloucester and Mark van Gisbergen of Wasps are off limits as far as the autumn internationals are concerned, having picked up serious injuries during their clubs' warm-up matches.

Jon Clarke of Northampton, one of the country's best young centres, has written off the next four months after breaking an ankle against Newcastle on Sunday. Andy Farrell of Saracens, selected in the élite squad despite having failed to play a competitive game of union since his move from rugby league over a year ago, is still unfit; Matt Stevens, the world champions' first-choice tight-head prop, will be lucky to play before Christmas after shoulder surgery.

Northampton have suspended their scrum-half Johnny Howard for a fortnight after finding him guilty of some unacceptable rucking during the Newcastle match. Howard accepted blame for his misdemeanour while insisting he was "not a dirty player".

In Scotland, the former assistant coach of Wales Lynn Howells was unveiled as the new head honcho at Edinburgh, by some distance the most powerful of the country's three Celtic League teams. He joins from the Italian side Lyonessa as replacement for the former All Black captain Todd Blackadder, who has returned to New Zealand.