Joe Launchbury could make his first England appearance in more than a year after Eddie Jones recalled the veteran lock ahead of Sunday’s Guinness Six Nations trip to Italy.
Launchbury has not featured for England since the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup, with a broken leg and then a serious knee injury keeping him on the sidelines.
However, the 30-year-old is back to full fitness and Jones has wasted no time in adding him to his squad to play Italy at the Stadio Olimpico.
GUINNESS SIX NATIONS FIXTURES
Launchbury, who could win his 70th Test cap, replaces Lewis Ludlam in the squad after the flanker suffered a rib injury against Scotland.
Ludlam is expected to be available for the Round 3 home game against Wales but has returned to club side Gloucester in the interim.
“Lewis has got a bit of a rib cartilage injury and all things being equal he will be a reasonable chance to play against Wales,” explained Jones.
“Joe is a good Test lock. He is an outstanding mauler, he is a guy that is tough around the one-pass play around the ruck and he brings a lot of experience. At the moment experience is not something we have got a lot of.”
Meanwhile, Courtney Lawes – who was expected to captain England in the Guinness Six Nations in the absence of Owen Farrell – remains uncertain to play in Rome.
Lawes missed the trip to Scotland with concussion and Jones says he is currently unlikely to play.
Asked about his chances, Jones added: “Outside at this stage. He is progressing nicely, he has started lifting and running but with all these sorts of injuries the most important thing is the welfare of Courtney and unless he is able to train fully tomorrow [Wednesday] then the likelihood is being fit for Italy is less than 50 power cent.”
Jones is also keeping an eye on centre Manu Tuilagi but says they need to be patient with him as he continues to work his way back from a hamstring injury suffered in the Autumn Nations Series.
Tuilagi played for Sale Sharks at the weekend in his first action since November but Jones says it’s too soon for him to play Test rugby.
“We will continue to monitor his progress, continue to talk to Sale about how his training volume, his training load is going,” he said.
“We have got to be cognizant of the fact that he is a player over 30 now and we need him to get a bit more game time, a bit more training into him.”