England grand slam tilt hit by Morgan setback

ENGLAND No8 Ben Morgan has lost his race to be fit in time for Saturday’s crucial RBS Six Nations decider with Wales, head coach Stuart Lancaster has confirmed.

Morgan has not featured since suffering an ankle injury during the first match of the championship against Scotland, but Lancaster hoped to have the Gloucester forward available for the trip to the Millennium Stadium.

However, the 24-year-old will play no part in England’s pursuit of a first grand slam since 2003.

“Ben will stay at Gloucester this week,” said Lancaster. “We knew his ankle would take six to eight weeks and he won’t make it in time.”

Northampton’s Tom Wood should retain his place at No8, while fly-half Owen Farrell is in contention to regain the No10 shirt, having missed Sunday’s hard-fought 18-11 win over Italy with a thigh injury.

Locks Joe Launchbury, Geoff Parling and Courtney Lawes are all expected to shake off knocks picked up in that disappointing performance at Twickenham, an experience Lancaster hopes England are strong enough to put behind them swiftly.

“I don’t have to remind the players that there were areas of our game which weren’t good enough,” he added. “We needed to take our opportunities to score points when they were there.

“There are a lot of players who haven’t been to Cardiff before and played in the Millennium Stadium. But what we have is a strong self-belief and a sense of character.

“We need to make sure we give the players a good plan this week to beat the Welsh because it’s a big old game and was always probably destined in the stars.”