Martin Johnson worried the England and Leicester camps yesterday when he dropped out of a Tiger's training session with a suspected tweaked hamstring. He left the session early as a precaution and received treatment on the spot, but the Leicester management are confident that he will lead the Tigers in Saturday's Powergen Cup semi-final against Gloucester at Northampton.
Tigers have already lost the services of Neil Back, Lewis Moody, Austin Healey and Harry Ellis. Ironically, earlier this week Johnson won one of his two appeals against yellow cards which meant he escaped an automatic one-match ban that would have ruled him out of the tie anyway.
Should the injury prove more serious then Johnson would join a lengthening list of England casualties. Clive Woodward, the England head coach, learned late on Tuesday that the Northampton wing Ben Cohen was still struggling with the thigh strain he picked up against Wales last weekend, and was doubtful for England's Six Nations' Championsip match against Italy on 9 March, and almost certainly out of Saints' Cup semi-final against London Irish on Sunday.
Cohen has been included in England's ever-growing category "injured, but attending the session'', but Woodward said yesterday: "Only Jason Robinson and Trevor Woodman may be available to play against Italy." The squad gathers next Monday and includes a clutch of players from the A team which beat France A two weeks ago, and Woodward added: "There is a pathway from the A team to the seniors, with no fewer that seven members of that team making it through to be in contention for a senior team place.''
The seven includes the tight-head prop Robbie Morris, who made his senior debut against Wales, Joe Worsley, who came on as a replacement in the same game and the loose head Mike Worsley (no relation), who was on the bench in Cardiff. They are joined by Jamie Noon, Josh Lewsey, Alex Sanderson and Ollie Smith.
Sanderson is in as cover for the injured Neil Back, while Bath's Mike Tindall is finally deemed to be fully fit.
Scrum-half Matt Dawson returns to the squad after recovering from a calf injury while the Wasps lock Simon Shaw is also recalled 11 months after winning his 19th cap against Italy.
Dawson's return means there is no place for Andy Gomarsall, who drops into the A squad, although his mind will be on the difficult task facing his club, Gloucester, this weekend.
Tuesday evening Gloucester's centre Robert Todd received a 21-day ban for a reckless tackle against Saracens, so he misses the tie. Gloucester's other centre, Terry Fanolua, is on crutches after twisting an ankle and is not certain to recover.
Bath have signed the Samoan international centre and wing Elvis Seveali, 24, from New Zealand Wellington, on trial until the end of the season.
ENGLAND TRAINING SQUAD
(for Six Nations' Championship match v Italy, Twickenham, 9 March) Backs: J Lewsey (Wasps), D Luger (Harlequins), J Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester), J Noon (Newcastle), P Christophers (Bristol Shoguns), W Greenwood (Harlequins), M Tindall (Bath), O Smith (Leicester), C Hodgson (Sale Sharks), J Wilkinson (Newcastle, vice-capt), M Dawson (Northampton), K Bracken (Saracens). Forwards: G Rowntree (Leicester), M Worsley (London Irish), R Morris, S Thompson (both Northampton), M Regan (Leeds), M Johnson (Leicester, capt), B Kay (Leicester), D Grewcock (Bath), S Shaw (Wasps), R Hill (Saracens), J Worsley (Wasps), A Sanderson (Sale Sharks), L Dallaglio (Wasps, vice-capt).
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