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England reveal grim seriousness of Chessum training ground injury

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Steve Borthwick wrapped up his England media commitments in Dublin on Thursday night by delivering a grim update on the extent of the training ground injury that Ollie Chessum suffered at Pennyhill on Tuesday. The 22-year-old was in line to start his fifth successive match in the Guinness Six Nations but instead of lining out against Ireland in the championship finale, he now faces a race against time to be fit for the Rugby World Cup later this year.

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England initially didn’t give an indication as to the severity of the problem suffered by the Leicester forward earlier in the week, simply stating at the time: “Ollie Chessum sustained an ankle injury in training on Tuesday which has ruled him out of this weekend’s game. George Martin has been called up to the squad.”

Two days later, however, Borthwick ended his delayed media briefing with a very concerning bit of housekeeping. “Ollie dislocated his ankle on Tuesday afternoon and has subsequently seen specialists and had investigations. He will have surgery on Monday and his return to play is estimated at somewhere between five to six months,” said the head coach.

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“He made his debut in last year’s Six Nations, a couple of appearances on the bench, and you have seen the growth of the player in this Six Nations. Through these four games, he was a guy who looked at home at this level.

“I was chatting with him Thursday morning and the determination he has to be back on the field, back in an England shirt, is quite immense. He will have the opportunity to be fit and back on the field for the Rugby World Cup.”

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England open their account at the finals in France with a September 9 showdown in Marseille versus Argentina and Chessum – one of their best players in Six Nations 2023 – will have it all to do in his recovery to make the squad and add to his tally of nine caps. “He hasn’t had the surgery yet, but we are very, very hopeful that he will have that opportunity (to get selected for the World Cup).

“He is a great player and a brilliant young man. He is going to do everything. I can sense it from him. He is going to do everything in his power to get back on the field as soon as possible.”

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It was 2020 at Leicester when Borthwick, who had seen videos of Chessum in action for Nottingham the previous season, first got to work with the youngster who made a lasting first impression when rugby returned following its pandemic-enforced stoppage.

“During the period when we were allowed to return to training during covid and you had to run in lanes, I saw this guy run just as hard and just emptied everything that he had in himself with no holding back,” enthused Borthwick. “I thought there is something special about this guy.

“Then when we were able to start doing rugby training and you started seeing him on the pitch, he was full of incredible potential. He has played back row, second row, mid-season this season he started calling lineouts for the first time – he wants to be a lineout caller.

“You see how brilliant he is under kick-offs, he carries the ball, and then he is a brilliant character, one everybody loves. Adds enormous energy and vibrancy to the team. We certainly miss him already.”

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