England set to lose another leading lock as Courtney Lawes returns home from training camp with back injury
- Courtney Lawes leaves training base in the Algarve to return home for treatment
- The 29-year-old has been struggling with a back problem for much of October
- He joined England’s squad regardless but now requires urgent medical attention
England are bracing themselves for the loss of another leading lock, as Courtney Lawes is returning home from the Algarve on Saturday, for treatment on a back injury.
The 29-year-old Northampton forward has been struggling with the problem since Northampton’s match against Leicester at Twickenham earlier this month.
He flew out with the national squad for this pre-autumn series training camp, but has been unable to take a full part in sessions here and has been dispatched for urgent medical attention.
Courtney Lawes is a major doubt for the first Test against South Africa with a back injury
While the official line is that he will re-join the squad in Portugal on Monday or Tuesday and is expected to be in contention to face South Africa next Saturday, the reality is that he appears highly unlikely to be ready for that first Quilter Test of the four-match campaign.
England forwards coach Steve Borthwick said: ‘Courtney Lawes will return to England today for specialist treatment on a pre-existing back injury.
‘He is expected to return to Portugal early next week. He has taken part in modified training this week.’
Lawes (centre) had been training with the England squad in Portugal despite his back problem
This is another setback for England head coach Eddie Jones, who is already having to cope with the absence of several leading players, amid a sadly familiar injury crisis. Crucially, Wasps lock Joe Launchbury is among those on the lengthy casualty list.
Lawes was surely destined to start against the Springboks, but unless he makes a remarkable recovery, the most likely scenario is that Maro Itoje and George Kruis will resume their Saracens second-row alliance.
That will leave club-mate Michael Rhodes seemingly on course to start at blindside flanker, for an England debut against his home country.
Michael Rhodes is on course to start at blindside flanker for England against the Springboks
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