Courtney Lawes appears destined to miss England’s autumn series opener against South Africa because of a back problem.
Lawes left the squad’s Portugal training camp on Friday to return home in order to receive specialist treatment on an injury that initially flared up before Northampton’s defeat by Leicester on October 6.
The British and Irish Lions lock pulled out of the game during the warm-up after suffering a back spasm that Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd revealed was the result of sleeping in a hotel bed that was too small for his 6’7″ frame.
He is due to return to Vilamoura on Monday evening but given that he will not be able to train fully until Thursday – on the morning the team is announced – his chances of being involved have faded.
“Courtney had a walk through on Wednesday and realised it wasn’t right. Our medical team got on to it straight away,” England head coach Eddie Jones said.
“He was investigated here, we couldn’t get the required treatment here so had to send him back.
“At the moment it seems like it’s had the required effect and we’ll just wait and see how he comes in tonight (Monday).
“He’s had the injury for a while. He missed two games for Northampton. He came back and played a game but it hasn’t really rectified itself.
“We’re hopeful he’ll do some light training on Tuesday. Maybe he’ll do some full training on Thursday and we’ll make an assessment on whether he’s right to go.
“He’s a 60-capper, a Lions player, great ball carrier, a good defender. A big loss, so we’ve just got to pick up the slack.”
If Lawes if ruled out as expected, Saracens pair Maro Itoje and George Kruis are set to form the second row.
Manu Tuilagi is poised to win his first cap for four years after impressing during training since his arrival in camp on Wednesday, placing further distance between him and the succession of long-term injuries that have interrupted his Test career.
“Manu has looked really good. He’s come into the camp in really good nick, physically and mentally,” Jones said.
“He’s enjoying being back in the England squad. He obviously brings something different and he’s pushing hard for a spot in the 23.”