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Steve Borthwick handed boost amid England back row injury crisis

By Josh Raisey
Zach Mercer of England looks for space during a training session at Pennyhill Park on June 12, 2023 in Bagshot, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Of the back row that started for England in the World Cup semi-final against South Africa in October, Courtney Lawes has since retired from international rugby, Tom Curry has a season-ending hip injury and Ben Earl is still nursing a knee injury.

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To make matters worse for England head coach Steve Borthwick, Saracens confirmed this week that No8 Tom Willis is likely to miss the Six Nations after having minor surgery on his knee this week.

Though England have a wealth of options in the back row currently, they are teetering on having a mini injury crisis. Borthwick was handed a major boost today though with the return of Zach Mercer.

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The Gloucester No8 underwent ankle surgery at the beginning of November and it was believed he would be out of action for an extended period, casting his participation in the Six Nations into doubt. However, he has made a swift return, and is set to start at the back of the scrum tomorrow night against ASM Clermont Auvergne at Kingsholm in the Challenge Cup.

This is a major boost for both England ahead of the Six Nations and Gloucester for the rest of the season. The Cherry and Whites arrested a six match losing streak with a win over Georgia’s Black Lion last Saturday, but it is safe to say that the 26-year-old has been sorely missed this past month after a barnstorming start to the season with Gloucester.

The former Montpellier star put the disappointment of missing out on Borthwick’s World Cup squad behind him with a great start to life at Kingsholm before his injury. But if he is able to regain that form, he will undoubtedly be in contention to make the Six Nations for England.

Mercer is not the only person to make a rapid return to action, as Saracens revealed this week that Earl too is set to return ahead of schedule before the end of the year.

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Gloucester XV
15. Louis Rees-Zammit*
14. Jony May*
13. Chris Harris
12. Max Llewellyn
11. Ollie Thorley*
10. Santi Carreras
9. Stephen Varney*
1. Harry Elrington
2. Santi Socino
3. Fraser Balmain
4. Freddie Clarke*
5. Matias Alemanno
6. Jack Clement*
7. Lewis Ludlow* (C)
8. Zach Mercer

Replacements
16. George McGuigan
17. Jamal Ford-Robinson
18. Kirill Gotovtsev
19. Cam Jordan*
20. Ben Donnell
21. Charlie Chapman*
22. Seb Atkinson*
23. Lloyd Evans*

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