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Mako's positive update, Nowell concern

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Outlook not great for Jack Nowell, but latest prognosis is better for Mako Vunipola

England and Eddie Jones received a welcome update on Wednesday about the status of Mako Vunipola. The Saracens prop, who limped from the pitch against Ireland last Saturday, only suffered a “small tear of scar tissue” and will likely be fully available for the start of his country’s World Cup on September 22.

Vunipola’s return to action lasted only 17 minutes at Twickenham on Saturday, as he replaced Joe Marler in the second half of the game and then needed replacing himself a couple of minutes before the final whistle.

Along with Mark Wilson, Vunipola was the only injury issue remaining in the England forward pack going into that game and both players took their places on the bench, with Tom Curry and Sam Underhill having recovered sufficiently from their own injuries to start on the flanks.

England’s back line has had to deal with a couple of knocks, too, including a minor hip injury which has prevented wing Ruaridh McConnochie from making his international debut in England’s three World Cup warm-up games so far.

Another concern is Exeter Chiefs’ Jack Nowell, with the versatile back having picked up an ankle injury in his side’s Gallagher Premiership final defeat to Saracens. Initial projections were optimistic that he would be back in time for the World Cup, leading Jones to name him in his 31-man squad for the tournament.

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However, that optimism may have been misguided as Rob Baxter, the Exeter director of rugby, has described the flier’s chances as “touch and go” on BBC Radio Devon.

Baxter’s comments would certainly seem to rule Nowell out from featuring in England’s last warm-up game against Italy on September 6, meaning his earliest possible return would be the side’s tournament opener against Tonga on September 22.

England have leaned heavily on Elliot Daly, Joe Cokanasiga and Anthony Watson in Nowell’s absence, while Jonny May started his first game of the summer on Saturday in the 57-15 win over Ireland.

Jones will be hoping that McConnochie is able to feature against Italy and lighten the load on England’s stretched back three resources, although the Australian’s decision to name just two scrum-halves in his World Cup squad has allowed him the luxury of carrying an extra back three option.

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Outlook not great for Jack Nowell, but latest prognosis is better for Mako Vunipola