Dave Attwood has been ruled out of England’s clash with Fiji on Saturday and there is also a doubt over the fitness of Billy Vunipola.
Bath second row Attwood injured a knee in the 37-21 victory over South Africa at Twickenham and will return to his club having received treatment at the squad’s Surrey training base.
Adding to England’s problems is the news that world player of the year nominee Vunipola, who forced Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth to withdraw from the match following a clash of heads, will be unable to train on Monday or Tuesday.
A Rugby Football Union spokesman was unable to clarify the nature of the injury except to describe it as a “knock” — but it places a question mark over his availability for the second autumn international.
England forwards coach Steve Borthwick explained. “We’ve got a few bumps and bruises from Saturday.
“Dave Attwood is having his knee treated. He’s having an injection on his knee and is then returning to Bath, so is unavailable.”
England have opted against drafting Josh Beaumont into the squad to cover for Attwood and will instead rely on Charlie Ewels, who is already with the team.
If Vunipola fails to prove his fitness in time for the Grand Slam champions’ push for a 12th successive Test win, then Nathan Hughes will start at number eight in what would be his full debut.
Hughes won his first cap off the bench against South Africa, with prop Kyle Sinckler and centre Ben Te’o also blooded for the first time.
Borthwick believes the trio are ready to start against Fiji if required.
“They all did very well. What was noticeable for me was the ovation the players got from the supporters as they were leaving the field,” Borthwick said. “When the guys came on for their own cap the cheer they got was brilliant and that’s a big moment in any player’s career.
“They did really well and it improves the competitiveness in our squad, making selection harder, which is what Eddie [Jones] wants.
“All three players bring a lot of power and explosiveness to the field. They have some special talents and now they’ve experienced the Test arena. They’ll get better and better the more experience they’ll get.”
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