Tindall hopes hang by a thread
March 17, 2011
England captian Mike Tindall receives treatment on his ankle © Getty Images
England captain Mike Tindall is expected to be ruled out of the Grand Slam showdown with Ireland when Martin Johnson names his team on Thursday morning.
The Rugby Football Union has confirmed Tindall suffered an ankle ligament strain in England's win over Scotland and although the door was left open on a miracle recovery before Saturday's Dublin clash after Tindall visited a specialist on Wednesday night, it appears as though Matt Banahan will replace his skipper at outside centre.
The RFU said in a statement: "Mike Tindall saw a specialist last night and will continue to be treated by the England medical team this week in consultation with their Gloucester counterparts."
If selected, Banahan will make just his second Test start in the position as England seek to claim their first Grand Slam since 2003 - with Nick Easter likely to take over as captain. The Harlequins number eight captained England for the first time in a Test match against Samoa in the autumn.
But Johnson is otherwise set to keep changes to a minimum. With Banahan starting, the England manager will have used only 17 starting players in the championship.
Leicester flanker Tom Croft is expected to remain among the replacements despite marking his comeback from a fractured shoulder with a try-scoring appearance off the bench against Scotland. There is no room for Courtney Lawes, who will have to wait until the World Cup warm-up Tests to make his England return as he continues his comeback from a knee ligament injury.
Banahan is a converted lock forward who won his first five England caps on the wing before starting the victory over Samoa at outside centre. The 6ft 7in Channel islander made a forceful impact when he replaced Tindall in England's midfield at half-time against Scotland last week.
England's options to fill the vacant back's position on the bench are Saracens wing David Strettle and Wasps centre Riki Flutey, while Delon Armitage will be available after his eight-week ban for pushing an anti-doping officer expires overnight. The London Irish full-back has been training with the England squad during his suspension but it would be a surprise if Johnson brought him straight back in for such a big game.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures