Eddie Jones is hopeful Courtney Lawes will recover from his knee injury in time to start England’s clash with South Africa on Saturday week.
Lawes was a late withdrawal from Saints’ matches against Montpellier and Gloucester due to bruising on the joint and had effectively been ruled out of the Old Mutual Wealth series opener at Twickenham by Jim Mallinder.
But Jones is ‘cautiously optimistic’ the 27-year-old will be passed fit as England seek to extend their flawless record under the Australian to 10 Tests.
The injury crisis which has thinned Red Rose ranks has accounted for first choice second rows Maro Itoje and George Kruis, so Jones can ill-afford to lose another option in the position.
“Courtney’s medical situation is ongoing. He probably won’t train much this week, if at all. We’re cautiously optimistic he’ll be all right for the South Africa game,” Jones said.
Lawes’ Saints team-mate Dylan Hartley faces a challenging week during the five-day training camp in Portugal as he seeks to improve his fitness before leading England against the Springboks.
Hartley has made one start and one replacement appearance since recovering from a back problem and needs to prove to Jones he can get up to speed.
“We’ll see if Dylan is ready at the end of the week,” Jones said at the squad’s hotel in Vilamoura.
“We’ll have a good week’s training so we’ll know where every player is in terms of how ready they are to play international rugby.”