England have been handed a huge double injury blow before Saturday's showdown against South Africa with the captain Owen Farrell ruled out with an ankle injury and Jamie George also sidelined with a knee problem.
Farrell’s absence is a huge blow for Eddie Jones as he plots England’s revenge mission against the Springboks in their first meeting since the 2019 World Cup final. He limped out of England’s 32-15 victory over Australia last weekend and having had to isolate during the win over Tonga earlier this month his autumn woes continue.
His absence would suggest Jones reverts to a centre pairing of Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade on Saturday, with Marcus Smith continuing at outhalf, but Farrell's influence on the side will be sorely missed. It will be only the 10th match in Jones's reign in which Farrell has not appeared and the first he has been forced to miss through injury. In his absence, Courtney Lawes is likely to captain the side.
George’s absence, meanwhile, is equally significant and gives England a frontrow crisis. It means Jamie Blamire, who has just four caps to his name, is likely to start against South Africa with the uncapped Nic Dolly providing cover from the bench.
Already Jones is without the loosehead prop Ellis Genge, who tested positive for Covid-19 last week, while Joe Marler is also still in isolation after contracting the virus. Marler is due to return to training on Friday – just 24 hours before England face the Springboks – with Bevan Rodd, who made his debut against Australia, standing by. Jones has also called up the hooker Jack Singleton, who has three replacement appearances, as well as his uncapped Gloucester team-mate and loosehead prop Harry Elrington.
By contrast, South Africa – whose scrum dominance after Kyle Sinckler was forced off in the third minute was key to their World Cup final success - are set to unleash their Bomb Squad on Saturday. The Springboks have developed a habit of starting Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane in the frontrow before replacing all three simultaneously with Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Vincent Koch. - Guardian