The England prop Alex Corbisiero is expected to miss the entire Six Nations with a knee injury, according to the London Irish director of rugby, Brian Smith.
Corbisiero had a procedure on Wednesday to clear out a "loose body" on a knee which has been troubling him since the start of England's summer tour of South Africa. The initial prognosis from the England head coach, Stuart Lancaster, was that Corbisiero would be sidelined for "the first two games as a minimum". But Smith said on Sunday night Corbisiero will be out for up to 10 weeks – and there are doubts over whether he will play again this season.
"Unfortunately for Corbs he had further surgery," Smith told TalkSport. "The information our medical team have been given is that it is likely to be a 10-week injury. I'd like to think he could get back on the park for us before the end of the season. There are still major question marks about that. He has a significant injury and he needs to be managed well."
England have called the Sale prop Henry Thomas into the squad as temporary injury cover for Corbisiero before Saturday's Six Nations opener against Scotland. The Harlequins winger Ugo Monye has also been drafted into the training squad as cover for Freddie Burns, who remains with Gloucester for treatment on a knee problem.
Dylan Hartley will use a mental colour chart to keep his ill-discipline in check during the Six Nations after admitting the trust of the England coaches cannot last forever. Hartley is aiming to convince Lancaster that he deserves an immediate recall against Scotland, having missed the autumn internationals through injury.
That has meant addressing, once again, a volatile streak which has led to bans for gouging in 2007 and for biting the Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris in last year's Six Nations. On the latter occasion the forwards coach, Graham Rowntree, provided a glowing character reference for Hartley but the Northampton hooker served another ban over Christmas for striking Ulster's Rory Best in a Heineken Cup defeat and faces a battle with Tom Youngs for the hooker's jersey.
"It has been addressed by all the coaches – they've had a word with me," Hartley said. "There will come a point when they can't stand by me. They have put faith in me, especially people like Graham and Stuart who have said some good things.
"I understand that trust can only go so far. I wouldn't expect them to stand by me if I continued to break that trust. It has been addressed by the coaches." Hartley has been working on his hot-headedness since his six-month ban for gouging, initially with psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters.
When he reflected on the ban for his clash with Best, Hartley realised he had allowed his pre-match mental routine to slip. That is where the chart comes in. "This is an ongoing thing for me. It goes back to what Steve Peters told me – that every week has to be the same preparation," Hartley said. "There are all these things you do before a game: analysis, training, meetings – all the rugby stuff – and for me there is the mental build-up. On my recent ban I completely forgot about that. I have a pretty little colour chart [in my head] which describes this for me. It is to stop you acting on emotion without thinking."
Another player hoping to win the favour of Lancaster, Alex Goode, declared himself fit to play against Scotland at Twickenham after making his first appearance in six weeks since suffering a shoulder injury against Munster. Goode, who was full-back in all four of England's autumn internationals, played 55 minutes as Saracens marked their first match at Allianz Park by beating Cardiff Blues in the LV Cup.
He was taken off a few minutes after being dumped on his left shoulder by Dafydd Hewitt but said that had nothing to do with his withdrawal. "I was a bit winded, but I showed no ill-effects during the game and I am really confident going forward.
"I am fit for Saturday and hope I did enough today to put myself on the radar. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but the game was quick and I was able to test the shoulder to the max. I am very happy with the outcome and I am looking forward to playing more matches on the artificial surface at Allianz Park which will make for some quick matches."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Unofficial England Rugby