Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

More Injury Woe as Joe Ruled out and Haskell Hits Setback

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

More Injury Woe as Joe Ruled out and Haskell Hits Setback

Article excerpt

ENGLAND must launch their RBS 6 Nations title defence without Joe Marler and have also learnt that flanker James Haskell has suffered another setback in his return from a lengthy lay-off.

On a day of disappointing injury bulletins, Marler has been ruled out of the opening two fixtures against France and Wales due to a fractured leg while the concussed Haskell is to miss Wasps' Champions Cup clash with Toulouse on Sunday.

Offering some comfort, however, is the news that outstanding back-row prospect Sam Underhill is to leave the Ospreys for Bath next season, making him eligible for England selection.

It is the news that Marler's injury is worse than initially feared that will cause the greatest angst as Eddie Jones has now lost two high-quality players at loosehead.

Mako Vunipola is not expected to recover from his knee problem until the end of February at the earliest - a more definitive date for his comeback is due next week - so Marler had been earmarked to start against France on February 4. But England must now tackle the first two Championship assignments with Matt Mullan in the number three jersey while the uncapped Nathan Catt offers cover from the bench.

Vunipola emerged as a world-class prop during last year's flawless run of 13 successive Test wins and, while Marler lacks his dynamism and natural ability, he is a more forceful defender who possesses greater setpiece expertise.

Either would have served the Grand Slam champions well, but now Mullan steps into the breach with Catt poised to make his debut.

The blow to the head that ended Haskell's comeback against Leicester on Sunday will mean he sits out the visit of Toulouse to Coventry, leaving just one last club fixture to prove his match fitness before England go into camp.

Having spent seven months on the sidelines following foot surgery, Haskell's appearance as a replacement lasted a mere 35 seconds. …

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