Joseph adds to England's injury woes
November 5, 2012
England coach Stuart Lancaster in relaxed mood ahead of his side's clash with Fiji on Saturday © Getty Images
Sir Clive Woodward's England XV
England have been dealt yet another injury blow on the eve of their forthcoming end of year campaign with the news that Jonathan Joseph has all but been ruled out of their opener against Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday.
The London Irish centre, who made his international debut on the tour of South Africa earlier this year, failed a fitness test on his injured ankle this morning and with the 21-year-old not expected to train tomorrow either it appears he has run out of time to prove his fitness ahead of Thursday's team announcement.
Joseph's enforced absence follows injuries fullback Ben Foden, lock Courtney Lawes, hooker Dylan Hartley, centre Jordan Turner-Hall and prop Alex Corbisiero while winger Chris Ashton will miss the game against Fiji through suspension.
But there was some good news for England with lock Tom Palmer returning to training today having recovered from a calf injury while Joe Marler has also shaken off a hamstring problem. No.8 Ben Morgan is also in the selection mix despite picking up a head wound in Gloucester's Aviva Premiership defeat to Harlequins at the weekend.
Gloucester's Freddie Burns and Bill Twelvetrees and Wasps' Joe Launchbury have all been drafted into the squad as cover but none are expected to feature against Fiji with Leicester's Manu Tuilagi and Saracens' Brad Barritt poised to form the midfield.
"Tom didn't train last week with a tight calf. I just want to make sure I have all the bases covered. We were also keen to get Joe in, particularly in light of his recent form," Lancaster said.
"It is an opportunity to bring Freddie into the equation because we recognise the form that he is in and we want to give him the opportunity to present himself up against Toby Flood and Owen Farrell. He can get a feel for what we are doing and get used to the game-plan because the reality is it only takes one injury (for him to be in the squad)."
The in-form Burns earned selection in a headline-grabbing England side picked by former coach Sir Clive Woodward in a national newspaper at the weekend but Lancaster refuses to be swayed by such opinions. "It's not just Sir Clive, lots of people have offered suggestions and opinions on what should be done," he told Sky Sports News. "It is part of the job and goes with the territory. You know you are going to get that and everyone is entitled to their opinion. I base my decisions on what I know from watching games, speaking to players and directors of rugby and speaking to my own coaching team and that's how you make your selection - and we haven't done too bad so far."
With a long list of casualties, Lancaster is keen to ensure his squad are mentally prepared for the Fiji game that will be followed by clashes with Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. "It is about getting into detail now about Fiji and getting the mindset right and the organisation right so we are ready to go," Lancaster said.
"We tend to focus more predominantly on ourselves. That is not to decry Fiji but our objective is to get ourselves in the right place technically and tactically so we can deliver a winning performance."
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