England have received mixed news on the injury front after Dylan Hartley and Elliot Daly were declared fit to face Ireland only for Courtney Lawes and Nathan Hughes to be effectively ruled out of the summer tour to South Africa.
Hartley is set to return as the team’s captain and hooker for the final round of the NatWest 6 Nations at Twickenham having missed the 22-16 defeat by France because of a tight calf.
British and Irish Lions wing Daly has recovered from the foot injury sustained in Paris, enabling him to continue on the left wing against Joe Schmidt’s newly-crowned champions.
“Dylan and Elliot were part of training today (Wednesday). We were monitoring them for the first couple of days, but took part today. They’re available for selection,” said defence coach Paul Gustard.
The outlook on Lawes and Hughes is far less positive, however, with the back five forwards scheduled to undergo surgery to repair ligament damage this week.
Hughes re-injured the same knee that was hurt earlier in the season, forcing him out for eight weeks in a spell that encompassed the opening two rounds of the Six Nations, after Joe Launchbury and Francois Trinh-Duc fell into his left leg at the Stade de France.
Lawes managed to finish the game that ceded the title to Ireland with a round to spare despite his own knee complaint, but he has also been ruled out for 14 weeks – a fortnight longer than the rehabilitation period predicted for Hughes.
The time frame for their recoveries all but ends their hopes of being involved in the three Tests scheduled against the Springboks in June.
“We’re really disappointed. We wish them the best for their recovery, we’ve got close links with the players individually and we’ll be in touch with their physios so we’re part of their rehab process,” Gustard said.
“It’s an opportunity for somebody else. People heal at different rates so we’ll assess their availability for South Africa as the injuries heal I guess.”
England name their team to face Ireland on Thursday morning with Eddie Jones planning at least three changes.
Hartley’s expected return will see Jamie George drop to the bench and Owen Farrell relieved of the captaincy he held against France.
With Lawes and Hughes in the treatment room, James Haskell and Sam Simmonds are likely to be promoted from the bench into the back row alongside Chris Robshaw.
Prop Dan Cole and fly-half George Ford are also under pressure for their places in the team following a string of below-par displays in this Six Nations.