Injury-hit England have received a major Six Nations boost after a trio of key players were passed fit for their championship opener against Italy in Rome on Sunday.
Former skipper Chris Robshaw, lock Maro Itoje and full-back Mike Brown are all set to be in contention for a place in head coach Eddie Jones’s starting XV after shaking off their respective ailments.
Robshaw was struggling with a back injury and Itoje a hip problem, while Brown was a doubt due to blurred vision, but all three have returned to training after being given the all-clear for the Stadio Olimpico showdown.
At one stage it was looking as though England could be without as many as 18 players as they begin their quest for a third straight Six Nations title against the Azzurri.
“We’ve had some miracles,” said Jones. “There have been some great recoveries because of the fantastic work from the medical and strength and conditioning staff.
“All of them [Robshaw, Itoje and Brown] have returned. We did some stuff yesterday [Monday] and they all came through really well.”
It was not exclusively good news for England and back-rower Zach Mercer’s chances of making his international debut have decreased after the 20-year-old incurred a viral infection.
Exeter’s Sam Simmonds would now appear to be in pole position to occupy the No8 jersey in the absence of Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes and Mercer.
Jones added: “Mercer is doing okay but he’s still got a lot of work to do. Physically he’s got a lot of work to do. You put him next to James Haskell and you can see the physical work he’s got to do to be a Test player.”