ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster has conceded centre Luther Burrell is unlikely to figure in his side’s opening clash of their autumn programme against world champions New Zealand.
The 26-year-old, who has seven international caps to his name, was withdrawn shortly after half-time during Northampton’s European Champions Cup victory against Ospreys at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday after sustaining an injury to his right hand.
And while Lancaster is refusing to rule out Burrell taking the Twickenham field against the All Blacks on Saturday 8 November, he does accept later fixtures against South Africa, Samoa and Australia may be a more realistic target.
“I think it would be tight for New Zealand, if I’m being honest,” said Lancaster. “He’s not been in camp this week at all. He’s seeing the specialist and it will probably unfold over the weekend.
“He’s still in the equation further down the line and he’s definitely not out of the series. We’ll see how he goes. If the specialist is positive then potentially he could come back into camp next week but it would be a big step to put him in against New Zealand.”
Burrell remains the greatest fitness concern for a depleted England who are without a host of players for the QBE Series and began their camp on Monday with more walking wounded.
Harlequins prop Joe Marler, Saracens No8 Billy Vunipola, Bath centre Kyle Eastmond and Harlequins wing Marland Yarde have all missed training, while Wasps back-row James Haskell and Bath prop David Wilson have not taken part in full sessions.
But Lancaster remains optimistic all seven will recover in time to stake their claim for inclusion in the squad to face New Zealand.
He added: “It’s always a tough start to the season for players, particularly when they go six rounds of the Premiership and then two rounds of Europe but I’m sure they will be ready for next week.”