England are refusing to allow escalating fears over the spread of the coronavirus to disrupt the final two rounds of their Guinness Six Nations title challenge.
Eddie Jones’ side are due to visit Rome on the final day of the tournament on March 14 but that game appears in growing danger of being postponed with Italy in the grip of a mounting crisis.
Twelve people have died from the disease in Italy and the country has reported a total of 374 cases. As a result, Ireland’s clash with Italy in Dublin on Saturday week has already been called off due to the outbreak.
England are preparing for their clash with Wales in the penultimate round at a three-day camp in Oxford and assistant coach Steve Borthwick insists it is business as usual.
“It’s not a distraction. The squad are together and looking forward to two-and-a-half days of training together and improving. We want to move forward again. That’s what we’re concentrating on,” Borthwick said.
(Continue reading below…)
Anthony Watson is back in contention for the Wales game on Saturday week after being named in a 25-man training squad that has gathered in Oxford.
Bath and Lions wing Watson has yet to make an appearance in the Championship because of a calf problem but could be available for the visit of Wayne Pivac’s men to Twickenham.
“Anthony is progressing well. He’s been doing his rehab and was running earlier in the week. We’re monitoring him day by day to make sure you get the right balance in his training,” Borthwick said. “The Wales game is still nine or 10 days so we’ll just monitor it on a daily basis.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 26, 2020
“Mark looks in good shape. He’s been back on the field for Sale. He’ll train with us over the next few days and we’ll see where he’s at,” Borthwick said.
“He brings an incredible work-rate. And there’s a toughness and resilience in the way he plays. He carries well and at the breakdown he’s excellent. But the sheer volume of work he gets through in a game is immense. He has a fantastic attitude as a professional.”
The virus has suddenly become a headache as we move towards the latter rounds of the tournamenthttps://t.co/2WLfOLDbiS
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 25, 2020
Prop Mako Vunipola and hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie are missing for family reasons, however. Vunipola has returned to Tonga for an unspecified length of time and is a major doubt for the penultimate round of the Six Nations.
Cowan-Dickie has been limited to two superb replacement appearances in this tournament because of the premature birth of his son.
Rookie full-back George Furbank is in camp to continue his rehabilitation from the groin problem that forced him to miss the 24-12 rout of Ireland.
– Press Association
WATCH: Top Wallabies reveal the Israel Folau drama split their World Cup squad
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.