England's hopes of completing a first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2003 have been handed a significant boost after confirmation that Dylan Hartley will be fit to play in France. Fears that the influential captain and first-choice hooker could miss the pivotal trip to Paris on 19 March were raised when he did not take part in a training session on Tuesday (15 March).
Such concerns were further exacerbated by the latest squad announcement, which saw Eddie Jones retain the services of Sale's Tommy Taylor, who was called up for the first time following the 25-21 victory over Wales at Twickenham. Luke Cowan-Dickie also remains in camp as chief back-up after Jamie George was ruled out for eight to 10 weeks with a bicep injury, although forwards coach Steve Borthwick insists that Hartley will be fit to start at the Stade de France.
"Dylan's fine," he was quoted as saying by The Guardian. "He trained in the morning but was rested for the afternoon session. But he's fine. He's not carrying an injury, he's good.
"It was a case of monitoring loads and he was rested for the afternoon session. For away games we take travelling reserves and we're taking Tommy for this one. He's going as a travelling reserve, nothing more than that."
England, already Six Nations champions courtesy of Scotland's win against France, have retained the entire matchday 23 from last weekend. Saracens full- back Alex Goode returns to the fold, while Wasps loose-head Matt Mullan is also included as cover for Joe Marler, who has escaped a suspension following his citing for striking Rob Evans with his forearm.
A disciplinary committee, while upholding the complaint, cleared Marler to resume playing duties after deeming that the offence was not worthy of a red card. The 25-year-old could yet face punishment for calling fellow prop Samson Lee a "gypsy boy" during that clash with Wales, however.