ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster insists he will not risk rushing fly-half Owen Farrell back next week against Italy in pursuit of a first RBS Six Nations grand slam for 10 years.
Farrell is the championship’s leading points scorer with 42 from England’s three wins so far, but was forced off with a thigh strain last weekend against France and is rated only 50-50 to face Italy.
The 21-year-old has not been able to run since, let alone practice his unerring kicking, and Lancaster admits time is running out before he has to rest Farrell and deploy Leicester’s Toby Flood instead.
“Owen is making good progress and he’s 50-50 for the Italy game. In the next week he’ll be running, but the problem will be kicking. If there’s a doubt we won’t risk it,” said Lancaster.
“We have to make sure that the injury has healed properly so that it doesn’t break down again through kicking. Being a fly-half, that’s an important part of the job.
“We’ll give him time, but equally there comes a point in a week when we run combinations. Toby Flood trained really well today and is a good player for us, so I’m not worried in that regard.”
England, who last won the grand slam in 2003, top the table with six points, two ahead of Wales, who they face in their final fixture in Cardiff on 16 March, and Scotland.