More injury woe for England ahead of France match

Jason Robinson appears to be England's biggest fitness concern as they begin preparations for their Twickenham clash against RBS 6 Nations title favourites France.

Jason Robinson appears to be England's biggest fitness concern as they begin preparations for their Twickenham clash against RBS 6 Nations title favourites France.

While skipper Phil Vickery and fly-half Jonny Wilkinson both failed to last the distance during another punishing round of Guinness Premiership action - and varying problems surrounded Andy Farrell, David Strettle, Magnus Lund and Steve Borthwick - Robinson was given only a "50-50" chance of recovering from neck trouble in time.

The Sale Sharks wing sat out his team's 22-9 league loss to Saracens, having missed England's record 43-13 Six Nations reversal against Ireland.

Sharks boss Philippe Saint-Andre is not optimistic about Robinson's immediate prospects, although he believes team-mate Lund will be fit after a bout of concussion.

England head coach Brian Ashton will today run the rule over his injured brigade, with centre Farrell (back spasm), wing Strettle (leg) and lock Borthwick (rib) all on the agenda for fitness checks.

And there will be specific attention concentrated on Vickery and Wilkinson as England target a victory next Sunday that would keep alive their Six Nations title hopes.

Vickery was helped off after taking a heavy blow - believed to be a punch - during Wasps' 28-0 victory over Bristol, while Wilkinson limped away during the closing minutes of Newcastle's 38-12 defeat at London Irish, although Falcons' initial diagnosis suggested cramp.

Vickery received four minutes' treatment on the pitch, and Wasps rugby director Ian McGeechan said: "He took a heavy blow, so we got the message on the field to get him off.

"I didn't want to mess around, as there had been heavy contact. He's fine now. The doctor is having a look at him and we will speak to England - it was just a heavy blow he took."

As for Wilkinson, Newcastle boss John Fletcher said: "He has just got cramp, and that is why we took him off.

"Whether the cramp was anything else we will have to see. Basically, all you can do with that sort of acute injury is ice it. There is nothing else you can do for 24 to 48 hours.

"The problem with Jonny is that he has never pulled a muscle. He has done one or two other things, but he has never pulled a muscle, so he does not have an understanding of the hamstring area.

"I would imagine there are some damaged fibres, so we will just have to wait and see how bad it is. It will be a time thing."

Wilkinson has played just three of England's 33 Tests since their 2003 World Cup triumph, returning to Test action for this season's Six Nations tournament and amassing 50 points in appointments with Scotland, Italy and Ireland.

If Wilkinson is ruled out of Ashton's plans to face the French, then his Newcastle colleague Toby Flood could realistically expect a first Test start following four appearances off the bench this season.

Wasps flankers Joe Worsley and Tom Rees, both named in Ashton's 28-man training squad, joined Vickery in suffering facial knocks.

Worsley took a bang on the nose and Rees has a swelling on his cheek, but McGeechan confirmed that both will be fit for training.

Farrell, meanwhile, missed Saracens' game against Sale, but Saracens rugby director Alan Gaffney said: "He's fine. He spent quite a bit of time in his car on Friday, which is not the best thing for him.

"He looked a bit stiff, trained fine, but probably stayed out too long - 30 or 40 minutes - kicking.

"I am not trying to be magnanimous or Mr Nice Guy. He could have played, but if he was not totally fit we were not going to play him. Nobody applied any pressure on me."

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox