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Itoje may make last games

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England expecting Itoje back sooner than originally feared

England Rugby say that injured lock Maro Itoje could be available towards the end of the Six Nations.

Head coach Eddie Jones has called up 35 players today to begin preparations for their second Guinness Six Nations match against France on Sunday 10 February, and gave an update on the Saracens lock.

That statement read: “Maro Itoje (Saracens) suffered a knee ligament injury during the Ireland game. The Saracens lock is expected to be available towards the end of the tournament. Nick Isiekwe (Saracens) has been named in Itoje’s place.”

Itoje suffered a grade two medial ligament tear that usually requires two to four weeks of rehabilitation.

The prognosis means that the British and Irish Lions lock could be available for the finale to the tournament against Scotland on Mach 16 – and potentially earlier.

Itoje saw a specialist yesterday to be given a clearer picture of when England can expect him back.

Losing their second row talisman for Sunday’s clash with France and almost certainly Wales a fortnight later is a substantial blow to Eddie Jones’ men.

Itoje is crucial figure in England’s pack and his power and work rate were key in subduing champions Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

Either Courtney Lawes or Joe Launchbury will slot into the starting XV in his absence, partnering George Kruis in the second row.

Lawes made a forceful second-half appearance in Dublin, but, while Launchbury was excluded from the matchday 23, England may want his bulk on from the start.

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England expecting Itoje back sooner than originally feared