England have encountered the first major injury problems of their World Cup campaign after it was revealed that Jonathan Joseph and Ben Morgan are doubts for Saturday’s pivotal clash with Wales.
Joseph took a bang to his chest in the 35-11 victory over Fiji while Morgan is struggling with a knee problem. Both players must prove their fitness on Wednesday before the team is announced the following morning.
“Jonathan has a bit of a knock, nothing too serious and our medical staff are working extremely hard behind closed doors to get him fit for selection,” backs coach Andy Farrell said.
“We will give him every chance to put an England shirt on this weekend.
Joseph is England’s main threat in midfield and his loss would be a blow to the hosts’ chances of placing one foot in the quarter finals by toppling Wales.
Brad Barritt could move from 12 to 13 to fill the void, while Henry Slade and Sam Burgess are also possibilities. Owen Farrell is an option at inside centre and in training on Monday a trio of Farrell, Barritt and Burgess was fielded.
If Morgan is ruled out, head coach Stuart Lancaster would face a simpler choice with Billy Vunipola starting at number eight and James Haskell elevated to the bench.
Farrell also revealed that No8 Ben Morgan has a bang on the knee but stressed that the injury “isn’t serious at all’.
Morgan did not train with England on Monday.
Meanwhile, one of Wales’ most consistent and durable performers of the past four years – Taulupe Faletau — still pinches himself that he is living life on rugby union’s global stage.
When, as expected, the Newport Gwent Dragons number eight runs out against England at Twickenham , it will be Faletau’s 49th Wales appearance in their last 57 Tests.
Rarely injured, rarely out of form, he has become an integral figure in Wales head coach Warren Gatland’s plans, yet the 24-year-old retains an engagingly modest attitude.
“It was new territory for me four years ago at the World Cup,” said Faletau, who started all seven Wales games, made 75 tackles during the tournament and did not miss one.
“I had never travelled with the squad before, and suddenly I was visiting these great places and playing in all the games.
“It was surreal, but looking back now it is still the best trip that I’ve ever been involved with. It was all new to me, and I really enjoyed it.
“Four years has flown by, and I was saying to one of the boys that I still watch internationals and pinch myself that I am going up against these players.
Of the eight Wales games Faletau has missed since making his debut in June 2011, two he could not have played in because he was on the British and Irish Lions’ Australia tour when Wales visited Japan.
And only two Tests has he missed through injury — Wales’ 2012 appointments with Australia in Melbourne and Sydney — after he broke his hand during the opening game in Brisbane.
Defeat for Wales on Saturday would leave them with a mountain to climb in terms of quarter-final ambitions, given that Australia are also in Pool A, while Fiji cannot be discounted.
And Faletau said: “It’s a tough group, there is no getting around that. It’s up for anybody to take it.
“Whoever gets through will be in good shape because they will have had competitive rugby from the start.
“All that competition can only benefit the two teams that get through to the knockout stages, and hopefully we will be one of them.”
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