England are set to name an unchanged team for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy at Twickenham despite the likely return of Brad Barritt, Kyle Eastmond and Geoff Parling.
Head coach Stuart Lancaster is ready to reward the starting XV for their heroics in dispatching Wales 21-16 in Cardiff on Friday night by retaining them en masse against the Azzurri.
The only potential change will come among the replacements, where Geoff Parling could provide specialist lock cover at the expense of Nick Easter or Tom Croft if he proves his fitness later today.
Parling and Barritt have been out with knee problems and Eastmond a shoulder complaint, but the trio resumed training today. Only Parling is likely to be considered for Italy, however.
“The reality is that a lot of the team did play very well against Wales and I wouldn’t envisage too many – if any – changes,” said Lancaster, who names his team on Thursday morning.
“Reverting to a specialist second row on the bench is something we are going to have to consider in the next 24 hours.
“We haven’t got a definitive answer whether Geoff is going to come through this next training session or Tuesday’s unit session, but that is one of the options.”
England’s injury crisis continues to ease, with flanker Tom Wood and lock Courtney Lawes nearing the end of their rehabilitation from ankle problems.
The Northampton forwards are due to resume training in the week leading up to the pivotal showdown with Ireland in Dublin on March 1, although they are unlikely to be involved.
“In an ideal world you would want them to play before then, particularly Courtney who has been out for quite a while now. Tom less so,” Lancaster said.
“Tom has played quite a lot of rugby, but Courtney has been out for quite a while. But I don’t think them playing will transpire. They’ll not play this weekend or next week.
“The first chance for them to play – international or club rugby – will be the weekend of the Ireland game.
“We’ll have to take a view on where we are at that point.”