ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster has handed Saracens full-back Alex Goode a Six Nations lifeline amid continuing doubts over Mike Brown’s fitness for next week’s crunch trip to Ireland.
Goode is yet to feature in this year’s championship after losing the No15 shirt to Brown during 2014 but pressed his claim for a recall with a starring role for his club in Sunday’s Premiership win over Bath.
Brown has been unable to train since suffering concussion against Italy and Lancaster yesterday anointed Goode as the man most likely to be called on should the Harlequins man miss the 1 March showdown in Dublin.
“Alex Goode was excellent at the weekend,” he said. “It’s the best game I’ve seen him play in a while, so he’s right at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Another option would be Anthony Watson to play at 15, and Jack Nowell obviously being in the squad. But the way Alex Goode played he’d probably be the next guy, but I don’t want to pre-judge that.”
Rugby’s concussion guidelines stipulate that Brown must be free of symptoms for 24 hours before he can resume physical work, initially on a bike, and Lancaster is cautious about his availability for the potential title decider with holders Ireland.
“We’re going to have to see how he comes through the return to play protocols,” he added. “Seven days would give him enough time in the build-up, but that is hypothetical at the moment because he hasn’t started the process, so we’ll wait and see.”
England’s starting XV against Italy, plus Exeter wing Jack Nowell and Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees, are set to remain in camp for training this week, with 17 players, including Goode, released back to their clubs to play at the weekend.
Forward trio Courtney Lawes, Geoff Parling and Tom Wood are among that number but unlikely to play, yet could still face Ireland.