England options boosted as Cole returns from nine-month injury

 
Ross McLean
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ENGLAND’S depleted stock of forwards received a boost yesterday after Leicester boss Richard Cockerill confirmed prop Dan Cole will make his return from a long-term injury in the Tigers’ LV=Cup clash with Sale on Sunday.

The 27-year-old British and Irish Lion has made 41 England appearances since his debut during the 2010 Six Nations Championship but has been sidelined since January with a neck injury.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster is contending with a catalogue of injuries in the pack ahead of England’s opening autumn international clash with New Zealand on Saturday, with fellow props Alex Corbisiero and Mako Vunipola ruled out of the QBE Series.

Cole did receive a similar billing until returning to frontline action and could now play some part in the autumn programme, which also includes fixtures against Australia, Samoa and South Africa, should he prove his fitness at Welford Road.

Lancaster’s side received plenty of plaudits for their showing during the first two matches of their three-Test series of New Zealand in summer before a more convincing All Blacks victory at Hamilton in the tour’s finale. Despite currently being on a four-game losing streak against the world champions dating back to December 2012, backs coach Andy Farrell insists England will be a more potent force for their summer whitewash Down Under.

“There boys have been through so much together in such a short space of time,” said Farrell. “This won’t be any harder than what we went through last summer.

“It’s great that we went through that in their backyard because the lads will feel themselves improving and making great strides. They know the next step is win consistently at the highest level.”