England have put Leicester's Toby Flood on standby to start against Italy next week amid continuing uncertainty over the fitness of the fly-half Owen Farrell.
Flood has been withdrawn from club duties this weekend, with Farrell unable to train because of a thigh strain. Farrell, an influential figure in England's unbeaten Six Nations campaign to date, limped off in the second half of his side's 23-13 win over France and the head coach, Stuart Lancaster, is unsure if he will recover in time to face the Azzurri. "Owen is still recovering from his tight quad muscle and probably won't train this week but we are fortunate to have Toby who came on and did well against France," he said. Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley look likely to relinquish their places in England's starting line-up after being released to play for Northampton against London Irish this Saturday. David Strettle and James Haskell have been sent back to Saracens and Wasps respectively but Tom Youngs, Danny Care and Mako Vunipola will all remain in Bagshot and appear to be candidates for a starting role.
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