Courtney Lawes has emerged as a doubt for England’s autumn opener against South Africa due to a back injury that initially flared up three weeks ago.
Lawes is to leave the squad’s training camp in the Algarve to receive specialist treatment in the UK, placing a question mark over his involvement in the first of four Quilter Internationals at Twickenham next Saturday.
The issue first surfaced on the day of Northampton’s defeat by Leicester on October 6, a back spasm incurred after sleeping in a hotel bed that was ill-suited to his 6’7″ frame the previous night forcing him to withdraw during the warm-up to the game.
He has played once since – at home to Clermont – and must now prove his fitness if he is to face the Springboks.
“Courtney Lawes will return to England for specialist treatment on a pre-existing back injury,” forwards coach Steve Borthwick said.
“He is expected to return to Portugal early next week. He has taken part in modified training this week.”
Lawes is destined to be part of the matchday 23 picked for South Africa unless his troublesome back rules him out of contention.
Another player forced to make the same return journey twice instead of once is Alex Lozowski, who is to join back up with England having returned home for a disciplinary hearing on Friday.
Lozowski must appear before another hearing in London early next week to answer for the dangerous tackle charge that was initially thrown out, resulting in his early departure from Portugal.
The Saracens playmaker is unlikely to be involved against South Africa whatever the outcome of his hearing, however.
Ben Morgan holds a stronger position in Eddie Jones’ selection thinking as England’s head coach looks to fill the void at number eight created by injuries to Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes and Sam Simmonds.
A mainstay of the back row under Stuart Lancaster, Morgan won the last of his 31 caps during the defeat to Australia that dumped England out of the 2015 World Cup.
For most of his reign Jones has been unconvinced by the Gloucester forward, whose club form has suffered amid a series of injuries, before his hand was forced by an injury crisis in his position.
“I never gave up. That’s not me, not my character. I’d made peace with the fact I’d made my last appearance, but I’m not the sort of person to give up,” Morgan said.
“I thought, ‘I’ll give my all and see what happens’. Thankfully I made it back into the training camp.
“My last experience with England was just one of disappointment really just because obviously going out of your home World Cup as early as we did was pretty frustrating.
“On reflection, it was a great experience to have had. But it’s something you can certainly use going forward, knowing what that sort of pain feels like. It definitely spurs you on to not have that happen again.”