Maro Itoje looks in line for a return for England for their Guinness Six Nations clash with Italy in Round Four at Twickenham.
The Saracens lock injured his knee in their opening round win over Ireland in Dublin and appeared to be in a race against time to return before the end of the 2019 Championship.
But a faster-than-expected recovery means he has been involved in some of the contact training this rest week in Oxford as England welcome Georgia to training.
John Mitchell, England’s defence coach, said yesterday that there was “a positive expectation” that Itoje would be fit to play against the Azzurri.
Itoje’s return would be timely considering Courtney Lawes was ruled out for the rest of the Championship with a calf strain sustained in their Round Three defeat to Wales.
That loss, while ending England’s Grand Slam hopes, has lit a fire under the Red Rose players according to Mitchell.
“We need to do that as quickly as possible. There’s not a lot you really need to tweak because we have a particular way we believe in but, clearly, our strategy will improve because of the Cardiff game.”