England will be without Joe Marler for the start of the defence of their Six Nations title after the Harlequins prop was ruled out for between four and five weeks after suffering a lower leg fracture. The 26-year-old had been thought to be suffering from a calf problem and was forced to withdraw from the Premiership clash with Sale before kick-off, after aggravating the problem on New Year's Day against Worcester.
The loose-head becomes the fifth player ruled out for at least part of the Six Nations, which begins on 4 February against France at Twickenham. A statement read: "Harlequins can confirm that Joe Marler has suffered a fracture to his lower left leg. He will undergo a period of rehabilitation and is expected to be fit to play again in four to five weeks. We will provide updates on his progress as and when appropriate."
Chris Robshaw [shoulder], Manu Tuilagi, Billy Vunipola and Mako Vunipola [all knee] will miss all five matches, while there are fitness concerns surrounding a host of frontline players as Eddie Jones sweats over the make-up of his squad.
Saracens lock George Kruis will not play for another two weeks due to a fractured cheekbone, raising the possibility of him featuring against France having not played since Christmas Eve. Meanwhile, James Haskell will miss the European Champions Cup clash with Toulouse after suffering a concussion just 35 seconds into his comeback against Leicester Tigers following a seven-month absence; a match which also saw Elliot Daly taken off with a similar injury.
Jack Clifford was also withdrawn with a head injury, pushing England's injury list to 10 less than two weeks before Jones is set to announce his squad for the Championships on 20 January. Captain Dylan Hartley is currently suspended but will be available. England are the defending champions after claiming the grand slam in 2016 during a calendar year which saw them finish with a 100% record from 13 matches.