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Player welfare protocol means Lewis Ludlam can't play for England this Saturday

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Player welfare protocol has meant that a fit Lewis Ludlam is unavailable to England this Saturday to help ease their back row injury situation.

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Eddie Jones was so short of resources for last Saturday’s second World Cup warm-up match that he was forced to select hooker Jack Singleton as a reserve back row forward for the loss in Cardiff to Wales.  

Mark Wilson (rib complaint), Tom Curry (shoulder) and Sam Underhill (ankle) have been injury concerns for England throughout this month, with Curry – who got injured for his troubles in the first Wales match – the only one of the trio to make any Test appearance so far this season.  

That casualty list helped catapult Ludlam up the pecking order, making his debut on August 11, earning World Cup squad selection the following day and then getting a second consecutive start against the Welsh last Saturday. 

However, England are not able to call on the 23-year-old to face Ireland at Twickenham. He is said to be undergoing a week’s active rest as the standard player contract in place for every Premiership Rugby player allows for a five-week break. He is finishing this allowance out, but it has left Jones sweating on the availability of his rehabilitating back rowers. 

“Those guys trained, trained well, and we will continue to monitor them as training progresses,” said forwards coach Steve Borthwick at a media conference after all three had trained at Pennyhill Park on Wednesday. “We have got tonight and tomorrow morning (Thursday) as well before naming the team.”

England will want all three available to take on Ireland to offset any need to pitch Billy Vunipola into a third Test in as many weeks.

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Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes are also further options to slot into the back row should either lock be required to step out to a loose forward role.

Mako Vunipola is expected to feature after recovering from hamstring surgery, with Borthwick admitting the British and Irish Lions prop offers England a significant boost.

WATCH: Jonny May and George Ford set the scene ahead of England’s World Cup warm-up match against Ireland

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finn 10 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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