England have been offered a glimmer of light amid their pre-autumn international injury crisis with confirmation that Owen Farrell will make his first appearance of the season during reigning champions Saracens' high-profile European Champions Cup Pool 3 opener and 2014 Heineken Cup final rematch against Toulon on Saturday (15 October).
The versatile fly-half has not experienced a single minute of competitive rugby since June, when he lined up at centre for his country and made 23 of 26 kicks as Eddie Jones' side completed a historic 3-0 series whitewash over Australia with an enthralling 44-40 victory in Sydney.
Having initially been troubled by persistent back problems, Farrell also sustained a minor hip issue last month and has subsequently been unable to play in any of his club's opening six Aviva Premiership matches of the season.
However, he has been deemed fit enough to feature from the off in a heavyweight battle against Toulon and England head coach Eddie Jones will surely be keeping a close eye on his performance and conditioning at the atmospheric Stade Mayol.
"Our game against Wasps was good preparation for a game like Saturday's but there are parts of game where we'll need to step up for a team as strong as Toulon," said Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall upon confirmation of his team selection. "We have a group who relish these kinds of challenges and big occasions – I'm confident that our players will thrive in such an atmosphere."
While club deputy Alex Lozowski has impressed and helped Saracens maintain a formidable 100% record, Farrell's return to fitness will come as an undeniable boost to injury-plagued England after a difficult period in which the Rugby Football Union (RFU) was forced to defend a high intensity three-day Brighton training camp. The retreat saw Wasps flanker Sam Jones fracture his leg during a judo session, Bath wing Anthony Watson suffer a broken jaw and Exeter's Jack Nowell diagnosed with a significant quad tear.
James Haskell, Manu Tuilagi and Jack Clifford had already been ruled out of autumn Tests against South Africa, Argentina, Fiji and South Africa at Twickenham, while uncapped Leicester Tigers lock Mike Williams is set to be sidelined for up to three months after breaking his arm for the third time in less than a year.
Elsewhere in English rugby, Andy Cosslett has been elected to succeed World Rugby's Bill Beaumont as chairman of the RFU. The governing body have also announced revenue of £407.1m in addition to their highest-ever turnover and record investment. The latest accounts show the financial benefit of holding the 2015 World Cup, a tournament that saw England suffer the ignominy of becoming the first host nation in history not to qualify for the knockout phase.