England dealt another Six Nations blow

by AFP

Wing Anthony Watson is to miss titleholders England's opening Six Nations match with France next Saturday because of a hamstring injury, the Grand Slam winners coach Eddie Jones revealed Sunday.

The initial prognosis is that the 22-year-old Bath star -- who suffered the injury in a squad training camp in Portugal -- will be on the sidelines for up to a month which definitely also rules him out of their following game on Saturday week in Cardiff against Wales and perhaps the game with Italy on February 26.

"It's disappointing news for Anthony and for England, but we know he'll rehab diligently to get himself right to go as soon as he can," commented Jones.

Anthony Watson is the latest to be ruled out of Autumn series. Photo: Getty Images"We're confident he'll be in the mix later in the championship."

It's a further blow to Watson, who missed England's November international programme with a broken jaw after a starring role in their Six Nations Grand Slam success where he scored in tries in three matches, as he was on course for a starting position.

Watson's place in the starting line-up could go to Jonny May of Gloucester, with Marland Yarde and Jack Nowell competing for England's other wing position.

England have a number of injury problems heading into the Six Nations, with their back row in particular set to have a new look.

Former captain Chris Robshaw is set to miss the entire tournament after undergoing shoulder surgery, while fellow loose forward Billy Vunipola will miss at least the opening rounds with a knee injury.

Meanwhile experienced back row James Haskell is struggling to overcome the lingering effects of a foot injury.

Mako Vunipola isn't out for revenge. Photo: Getty ImagesVunipola's brother prop Mako is also out but fortunately for Jones his understudy Joe Marler has made a remarkable recovery from a fracture to his lower left leg.

Injury-prone centre Manu Tuilagi will play no part owing to a season-ending groin injury.

England are on a 14-Test winning streak, 13 of those victories coming since Australian coach Eddie Jones took over after their 2015 World Cup debacle on home soil.

They are set to be captained once again by Dylan Hartley.

The France match will be the Northampton hooker's first competitive fixture since he served a six-week ban for striking Leinster's Sean O'Brien.