England forced to wait on Morgan
February 4, 2013
England could be without Ben Morgan for Sunday's clash with Ireland © Getty Images
England boss Stuart Lancaster will wait until Tuesday to confirm whether No.8 Ben Morgan will play against Ireland on Sunday after he suffered an ankle injury in their Calcutta Cup triumph at the weekend.
Morgan limped off for England in the 45th minute of their match with Scotland on Saturday, with James Haskell taking his place in the side, and the Rugby Football Union has said that the early prognosis is that he will "struggle" to recover in time to play Ireland.
It looks likely that Lancaster will now be forced to tweak the team that started against Scotland. Haskell could possibly get the nod if Morgan is ruled out with the Wasps man starting at blindside against Ireland with Tom Wood shifting to No.8. Another option for Lancaster would be to hand Wasps' young No.8 Billy Vunipola his England debut with Wood staying at blindside and Chris Robshaw continuing in the No.7 jersey.
Lancaster has also opted to add Will Fraser to the 31-man squad currently assembled ahead of the Ireland Test. The England coach is said to have been impressed with the Saracens flanker's performances in the Saxons two matches over the past two weeks.
"Ben is still in a boot," Lancaster explained. "The last prognosis is that he will struggle to be available for the weekend, but I'll know definitely tomorrow."
Lancaster also revealed that Manu Tuilagi is fit to train is back in the selection mix ahead of the weekend's match. With Billy Twelvetrees shining on his England debut and Brad Barritt also performing well against Scotland, he will face a tough decision to work out where to fit in the Leicester man.
"There are selection decisions across the field and that's one of them. Billy played well and Brad's contribution as always was positive," Lancaster said. "But Manu brings a unique set of skills and attributes to the game and the team, as we saw in his performance against the All Blacks.
"Genuinely, I'll wait and see how he trains tomorrow and on Wednesday before I make any decisions on the centre partnership. The reason I prefer to announce the team later in the week is that it allows me to look at the players in training and see who's up to speed and who isn't."
England's showdown with Ireland has taken on greater significance following their emphatic opening-day victories over Scotland and Wales respectively. Adding to the sense it could be an early Six Nations title decider is the damage done to France's championship aspirations by their shock 23-18 defeat by Italy in Rome yesterday.
"Italy confirmed what I thought about the strength of Italian rugby. They've significantly improved. Last year we found out how difficult it is to beat them in the Stadio Olimpico," Lancaster said. "Their performance merited the victory so credit to them and it throws the championship wide open in a number of ways.
"France will be looking for a response at the weekend. The quality of Italy's performance was the best I've seen. They're maturing as a team."
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