England’s preparations for their Guinness Six Nations opener against Ireland have been thrown into disarray by a thumb injury to captain Owen Farrell.
Farrell has undergone a procedure to repair ligament damage and is expected to return to action in seven to 10 days, making him available for the showdown in Dublin in a fortnight.
However, with England departing for their pre-tournament training camp in Portugal on Wednesday, his ability to take part in training could be severely restricted.
The worst case scenario would mean the Saracens star is unable to take part in sessions until four days before the Aviva Stadium clash.
“Owen has been complaining – but not very much – about his hand being a bit sore,” said Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall, whose side beat Glasgow in the Heineken Champions Cup on Saturday.
“We decided yesterday (Friday) to send him for a scan to make sure we know what he’s got. We thought he was going to play today and it was after the scan that he was pulled out.
“It turned out to be a very minor problem with a tendon in his thumb. The procedure has already been done this morning.
“As far as I know he’ll be back in seven days, something like that, so he should be able to play a full part in the Six Nations.
“I’m sure he will be going to Portugal because I think he’ll be available for selection.”
In the event Farrell suffers a setback, his place at fly-half would be taken by George Ford with Henry Slade providing further cover after Danny Cipriani was omitted from the training squad named by Eddie Jones on Thursday.
Ford could also take on Farrell’s leadership duties as Dylan Hartley is recovering from a knee injury.