Bristol boss Pat Lam was unable to shed further light on Wednesday on the seriousness of the ankle injury that resulted in scrum-half Harry Randall dropping out of the England Guinness Six Nations squad on Monday. The 23-year-old Bristol No9 was called up by Eddie Jones for the first time in January when he announced his 28-strong squad for the tournament. 

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However, having not been involved in the matchday squads for the opening two games against Scotland and Italy, the uncapped Randall won’t be making his Test debut any time soon after he withdrew from the England squad and was replaced by Northampton’s Alex Mitchell, another uncapped half-back.  

The RFU media release announcing the Mitchell for Randall switch simply stated the Bristol player had “an ankle injury” without adding any further details and Lam’s weekly media conference on Wednesday was unable to elaborate more on the situation. 

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“He got an injury and is going through that at the moment,” said Lam. “He is having scans and tests so we are looking at the severity of it. Fingers crossed. Obviously, it’s disappointing. I don’t really want to say too much until we get the results on how long he will be (out for). It will hopefully be sooner, but I’ll comment once I know the length of time he is going to be out for.”

It was in early January, prior to his England call-up, when Lam suggested that Randall was ready to make the step up from club to Test rugby, saying at the time: “He’s a tough bugger and I believe without a doubt he has got a huge future in the game and certainly will one day grace the international stage.”

With England not releasing players back to the clubs at any stage during the Six Nations due to tightened virus protocols, Randall wasn’t due to be available for Bristol until after the tournament-ending round five match away to Ireland on March 20. 

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However, his injury – which has compounded his unavailability – is the latest twist for a Bristol squad currently short on scrum-halves. “We’re down to two at the moment,” said Lam. “Hopefully Chris Cook isn’t too far away. He has been unfortunate with quite a string of injuries this season and he was nearly back but now he has strained his calf, had a calf tear a few weeks back.

“We could do with Chris coming back. Blake Boyland had the foot injury which has ruled him out for the season. We’re light at nine. It is what it is and this is why I said to the coaches this is where you’re worth your salt – we are only as good as the player who is sitting three, four or five in the depth chart. 

“For four years now I haven’t named the same 23 week to week. That is why we do everything as a team and that is why it is important everyone understands the Bears Way, that they come and in and get an opportunity to show what they can do,” continued Lam, who added that marketplace replacements are difficult to come by at the moment.   

“Considering and finding the right options is always the challenge. All the other competitions are starting up (Super Rugby, Japan, USA etc) and the difficulty this time is there has been no Championship rugby to date, so potential options there haven’t played rugby for a year.”

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