Maro Itoje is out for eight weeks after injuring medial ligaments in England’s outstanding victory over Ireland in Dublin forcing head coach Eddie Jones to reshuffle his pack to face France at Twickenham on Sunday.
It means Itoje will miss the rest of England’s Guinness Six Nations campaign following a scan on the knee. It is understood that Itoje will see a specialist today to discuss the best treatment for the ligament damage which could also keep him out of Saracens European Champions Cup quarter final with Glasgow at Allianz Park on the final weekend of March.
This has been a rough period with injuries for Itoje who chipped his knee cap and was forced to take a break leading into the Six Nations but showed in the outstanding win over Ireland in Dublin that he is operating at a level that puts him up with Brodie Retallick, of New Zealand, as the best lock it the World.
Eddie Jones, the England head coach, believes Itoje will earn that title heading into the World Cup in Japan and is understandably playing down the loss of the Sarries lock. Jones points to the form of Courtney Lawes (Northampton) who added his tackling power to the England cause in Dublin and the physicality Wasps Joe Launchbury offers.
Launchbury will be needed to counter the monster French pack at Twickenham on Sunday and with George Kruis, who started in Dublin, rediscovering his best form, England still have three World class lock even with Itoje out injured. However, France, who stumbled to defeat by Wales in Paris, will take heart from the injury to Itoje as it weakens the England line out which struggled when the Saracens pair of Itoje and Kruis were off the pitch in Dublin.
Jones said: “He (Maro) is going to be the best lock in the world so it’s a big loss. But we’ve got good depth. We’ve got Joe Launchbury ready to come back in, you saw Courtney come off the bench for us. We’ll have to fill his spot and guys will just to work that bit harder to cover his gap for how long he is out for.”
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