Farrell adds to England injury woes
England's preparations for the RBS 6 Nations continued to unravel on Tuesday with the news that Owen Farrell will miss the entire Championship because of a knee injury.
Farrell sustained a high grade medial ligament strain in Saracens' European Champions Cup defeat at Clermont on Sunday to further stretch Stuart Lancaster's midfield resources.
The 23-year-old was expected to supply fly-half and inside centre cover in the opener against Wales in Cardiff on Friday week, but now faces another lengthy period of rehabilitation in a year troubled by injury.
His summer tour to New Zealand was cut short by a knee problem and he then lost his place during the autumn as his form suffered amid the lack of game time that resulted from a thigh strain.
"It's a real shame for Owen that he sustained this injury and we wish him the best for his recovery," head coach Lancaster said.
Farrell's absence has opened the door for Danny Cipriani to claim a place on the bench against Wales with George Ford starting the Championship opener at the Millennium Stadium.
Cipriani is competing with Stephen Myler to supply cover for Ford and will have a week's training at the squad's Pennyhill Park training base to stake his claim for selection.
"We are fortunate to have three other number 10s in the squad in what is a very competitive position and are looking forward to seeing how they go during the Six Nations," Lancaster said.
The medical bulletin issued on Tuesday afternoon was less conclusive on England's other outstanding injury concerns amid reports that Brad Barritt will also miss the whole of the Six Nations with a knee problem.
Barritt is receiving treatment for knee ligament damage as Lancaster comes to terms with yet another injury crisis with his midfield hit hardest on this occasion.
A possible replacement for Barritt is Kyle Eastmond, but the Bath inside centre is nursing a shoulder problem and is also a doubt for the opener in Cardiff.
Manu Tuilagi is expected to miss the entire championship with a chronic groin condition, but offering some comfort is Luther Burrell's expected return to training on Friday once he has recovered from concussion.
Further doubts hang over lock Geoff Parling and flanker Tom Wood, who sustained respective knee and ankle injuries in a costly final round of European group action.
A more definitive verdict on Barritt, Eastmond, Parling and Wood is expected at Wednesday morning's Six Nations launch in London, which Lancaster is due to attend alongside skipper Chris Robshaw.
"We will continue to assess and treat the other players' injuries," Lancaster said.
England's injury problems have hit crisis point with lock Joe Launchbury and number eight Ben Morgan missing the entire Six Nations, while second row Courtney Lawes will be sidelined for part of it because of an ankle problem.