England head coach Eddie Jones has backed injured wing Anthony Watson to force his way into his side’s plans during the latter stages of the Six Nations despite being ruled out for up to four weeks.
A medical assessment confirmed that Watson has a slight muscular strain to his hamstring which will require rehabilitation and see the Bath flyer ruled out of Saturday’s Six Nations opener against France.
The injury, which is set to sideline the 22-year-old for at least three weeks, means he is also likely to miss England’s showdown with Wales at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on 11 February, after which Watson could come into contention.
England host Italy at Twickenham on 26 February before concluding their championship with matches against Scotland and Ireland.
“It’s disappointing news for Anthony and for England, but we know he’ll rehab diligently to get himself right to go as soon as he can,” said Jones. “We’re confident he’ll be in the mix later in the championship.”
All 34 players who participated in England’s pre-tournament training camp in Portugal assembled at Pennyhill Park yesterday as preparations for their Six Nations title defence intensify.
England, who remain unbeaten under the stewardship of Jones, are also looking to become the first nation to secure back-to-back grand slams since France in 1998. England won a second successive grand slam in 1992.
It has only happened on five previous occasions in the history of the tournament but should England repeat last year’s feat, they will also surpass world champions New Zealand’s record of 18 consecutive top-tier Test wins.