Bath Rugby open­side flanker will be out un­til mid-April fol­low­ing an­kle op­er­a­tion

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Football - DUNCAN BECH Rugby writer

ENG­LAND must com­plete the up­com­ing Six Na­tions with­out Sam Underhill after the Bath Rugby flanker was ruled out for three months by an­kle surgery.

It is a set­back for Ed­die Jones, who is now miss­ing one of the stars of the 2018 au­tumn cam­paign and must yet again en­ter a com­pe­ti­tion with one of his young open­sides un­avail­able.

Tom Curry has re­cov­ered from his own an­kle in­jury sus­tained against South Africa in Novem­ber – a blow that gave Underhill his chance – so Jones still has a strong op­tion in the po­si­tion, but the head coach wanted both play­ers du­elling for the jer­sey.

Underhill, pic­tured, suf­fered an­kle-lig­a­ment dam­age against Le­ices­ter on De­cem­ber 30, and while it was ini­tially thought the 22-yearold had merely rolled the joint, he was sub­se­quently forced to un­dergo an op­er­a­tion that will keep him out un­til mid-April.

Eng­land launch their Six Na­tions ti­tle chal­lenge against Ire­land in Dublin on Saturday, Fe­bru­ary 2 be­fore host­ing France a week later.

Jones re­ceived some good news, how­ever, after Sara­cens named Maro Itoje in the se­cond row for their Cham­pi­ons Cup clash with Lyon to­mor­row. Itoje missed five matches, in­clud­ing the Eu­ro­pean dou­ble­header with Cardiff Blues, due to a knee in­jury picked up while train­ing for the au­tumn opener against the Spring­boks.

“I chipped a bit of the bone lead­ing up to my knee and I dam­aged a lit­tle bit of the mid­dle lig­a­ment in the patella,” Itoje said. “It was a weird one be­cause I could run, jump, I could do ev­ery­thing I needed to do – I was able to do all of that with pain.”

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