Robshaw favourite to lead England as Wood ruled out

HARLEQUINS back-rower Chris Robshaw appears destined to skipper England for the start of next month’s Six Nations after his principal rival for the role, Tom Wood, was yesterday ruled out of the tournament’s first two matches with a toe injury.

England begin their Six Nations defence at Murrayfield against Scotland on 4 February before a trip to Rome a week later, but will be without the services of Northampton flanker Wood, who will wear a protective boot for the next four weeks.

The 24-year-old, who will still attend next week’s training camp in Leeds, made his international debut in last season’s Six Nations opener against Wales and was one of England’s star performers throughout the competition they won for the first time in eight years.

Wood’s loss would appear to be Robshaw’s gain, however, with interim head coach Stuart Lancaster yet to make a decision on who will inherit the captaincy from Lewis Moody, who retired from England duty following last autumn’s World Cup campaign. Lancaster’s options for his first match in charge were already limited with Toby Flood, Courtney Lawes, Louis Deacon and Manu Tuilagi also ruled out.

Leicester centre Tuilagi confirmed yesterday that he was still struggling with a hamstring injury and expects to make his comeback against Exeter on 11 February, the same day England play Italy.

“I’ve got make sure my fitness is alright – it’s been a while,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind going straight into the England team but I think Leicester want to make sure.”