England will be without winger Jack Nowell for their crucial Guinness Six Nations Super Saturday clash with Italy after the Exeter Chiefs man revealed he needs to undergo surgery on a toe injury.
The 27-year-old suffered the blow in last month’s Champions Cup semi-final victory over Toulouse but has played through the pain barrier for his club since then.
Nowell has been unable to train for the past fortnight but appeared for the Chiefs as they secured a European and domestic double, including Saturday’s 19-13 Premiership Final win over Wasps at Twickenham.
“I’ve ruptured all the ligaments around my toe,” Nowell said. “I’ve been strapped up for the last two weeks and have had to dig deep a little bit.
“Our physios and doctors have got me in a position where I can be on the field and unfortunately I am going to have to get it fixed next week.
“If I’m perfectly honest, I haven’t trained in two weeks. I’ve loved that, but the coaches have hated it! They’ve trusted me to go out there and perform at the weekend.”
The blow to Nowell comes just days before Eddie Jones will name his squad for the showdown in Rome, as well as the Autumn Nations Cup which starts in November.
A number of fellow Chiefs players will link up with the squad this week ahead of the last match of the Guinness Six Nations, with Henry Slade and Ollie Devoto among those likely to be selected.
England will be looking to secure a bonus-point victory on Saturday afternoon to put the pressure on Ireland and France in the final game of the Championship, with the three sides separated by just one point with a game to play.
And despite the urge to return to the international game, Nowell knows continuing to play with the injury is a step too far and looks likely to be out of action until the new year.
“After speaking to the surgeon, I might be out for a little while. After I’ve sobered up in the next couple of days I will catch up with him about the ins and outs,” the winger said.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s been horrendous. It’s my big toe, so any drive off that has been very, very sore.”