Tom Curry’s hopes of making his England comeback against Wales in the Six Nations on Saturday have been delayed because of an unspecified leg problem.
Curry was poised to make his first international appearance since the autumn having recovered from a torn hamstring, but he has been forced to withdraw from the reduced 26-man squad named by Steve Borthwick.
The Sale flanker’s twin brother Ben has been drafted in as his replacement but there is no place in the squad for back-rower Ben Earl, who made an impact off the bench against Scotland and Italy.
Curry completed the Sharks’ defeat at Northampton on Saturday in his first appearance since tearing his hamstring on January 8, but bad luck has struck again to prevent him from claiming a place in England’s back row.
“Tom’s going to be a big player for us. We’ll miss him this weekend,” defence coach Kevin Sinfield said. “He’s been really good in camp. He’s a seasoned international now and he’s got a lot of caps under his belt.”
Tom Dunn, Will Stuart, David Ribbans, Fraser Dingwall, Tommy Freeman, Bevan Rodd, George Ford and Sam Simmonds are the other players released from the initial squad named at the start of this week.
Courtney Lawes is present as he closes in on his first England appearance since leading the July tour to Australia.
Lawes’ season has been heavily disrupted by concussion, neck, glute and calf injuries but he will play some part in the Six Nations showdown in Cardiff, either at lock or blindside flanker.
“Aside from his playing ability, Courtney gets more out of the players around him,” Sinfield said. “There aren’t that many players in world rugby who have that influence across the team. He’s certainly got it.
“He’s got a real presence – he’s physical, he’s tough and he’s very, very mobile for a big man. All things being well, he should be there at the weekend.”
There will be at least one guaranteed change to the starting XV after Ollie Hassell-Collins was ruled out of the Round 3 clash because of a knee problem.
Anthony Watson and the uncapped Cadan Murley are retained as wing cover, while Henry Arundell being promoted off the bench is another option.
England 26-man squad:
Forwards: O Chessum (Leicester), D Cole (Leicester), B Curry (Sale), A Dombrandt (Harlequins), E Genge (Bristol), J George (Saracens), N Isiekwe (Saracens), M Itoje (Saracens), C Lawes (Northampton), L Ludlam (Northampton), K Sinckler (Bristol), M Vunipola (Saracens), J Walker (Harlequins), J Willis (Toulouse).
Backs: H Arundell (London Irish), O Farrell (Saracens), O Lawrence (Bath), M Malins (Saracens), J Marchant (Harlequins), A Mitchell (Northampton), C Murley (Harlequins), H Slade (Exeter), M Smith (Harlequins), F Steward (Leicester), J van Poortvliet (Leicester), A Watson (Leicester).
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