The row between Aviva Premiership clubs and England over the intensity of a recent international training camp has ramped up another notch with the news that Jack Nowell has joined a lengthy casualty list. The Exeter wing only returned to domestic action last week following his recovery from thumb surgery, but now looks set to spend more time out with a quad tear.
Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter is understandably unhappy to once again lose the services of such an influential player and expressed particular annoyance with an apparent failure of England's medical staff to appropriately diagnose an injury that leaves him as the latest major doubt for Autumn international fixtures against South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia at Twickenham.
"It is rather disappointing. He [Nowell] has got a pretty significant tear of his quad," he told the club's official website after a 27-all draw against Gloucester at Sandy Park.
"He did it on the Monday training with England. To be fair, he was loading in a way that we probably wouldn't have been loading him with, especially with the fact that he only played his first bit of rugby back at the weekend against Northampton.
"More disappointingly, he was sent back with us with a report that they couldn't find any significant damage and it was just a bit of loading and he was a bit sore. Obviously, we have then scanned it and found a pretty significant tear – a nine or 10cm tear – in his quad. It is a significant injury there and he is going to be out for a number of weeks."
England's three-day camp in Brighton has caused consternation across several clubs, with Wasps flanker Sam Jones expected to miss five months as the result of a broken leg suffered during a judo session. Bath wing Anthony Watson also sustained a broken jaw, while the likes of George Kruis, Joe Marler and Mike Brown were reportedly left unable to train ahead of important weekend fixtures for their clubs.
Premiership Rugby released a statement last week bemoaning the timing of those full sessions, claiming that the format was "not anticipated" and expressing hope that they would not be repeated during the remaining two England camps this season. The Rugby Football Union (RFU) quickly hit back at that criticism, however, defiantly stating that everything was in line with the new eight-year £225m ($279m) Professional Game Agreement signed in July. Eddie Jones is expected to meet with all 12 Premiership directors of rugby in London later this week for clear-the-air talks.
Amid the doom and gloom relating to England's current injury crisis comes the positive update that versatile goal-kicker Owen Farrell could finally make his first appearance of the season for Saracens in their European Champions Cup opener against Toulon next weekend. Alex Goode could also play some part at the Stade Mayol, although Leicester Tigers flanker Mike Williams is now dealing with an arm injury. James Haskell, Jack Clifford and Manu Tuilagi have already been ruled out of the autumn series.