England forwards coach Steve Borthwick has confirmed that loosehead prop Joe Marler is poised to complete a remarkable recovery and line up during Saturday’s Six Nations opener against France.
Harlequins powerhouse Marler was expected to be sidelined for five weeks, which would have included the opening two rounds of the championship, after suffering a fracture to his left leg on 10 January.
“Everything is on track for Joe,” said Borthwick. “He’s a fast healer. He has done really well. To have him back fit is brilliant. He’s been incredibly diligent to make sure he is in the best physical shape. That’s great credit to him.”
The availability of Marler is a particular boost to England with first-choice loosehead Mako Vunipola at risk of missing the entire Six Nations due to a knee injury.
England’s squad has been further bolstered by back-rowers James Haskell and Jack Clifford both being cleared for action against Les Bleus following the recurrence of a toe problem and a chest injury respectively.
Six Nations chiefs, meanwhile, have ruled out the imminent prospect of relegation from the tournament following support for the concept from the likes of Georgia and Romania.
“In the short to medium term there is not any genuine likelihood of that happening,” said Six Nations chief executive John Feehan.