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Saracens' Maro Itoje doubtful for England's autumn internationals

Published 22/10/2016

Maro Itoje sustained a hand injury diuring Saracens' victory over the Scarlets
Maro Itoje sustained a hand injury diuring Saracens' victory over the Scarlets

Maro Itoje is a doubt for England's autumn series after sustaining an injury to his right hand in Saracens' 44-26 Champions Cup victory over the Scarlets at Allianz Park.

Itoje was replaced in the 46th minute after his arm was trapped awkwardly while making a tackle and the 21-year-old lock is to undergo an x-ray to assess the extent of the damage.

"Maro came off with a sore hand. That needs to be examined and we'll know more after the x-ray has taken place," Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said.

It is another alarming development for England, who have been decimated by injuries in the build up to their Tests against South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia, stating with the Springboks' visit to Twickenham on November 12.

Openside incumbent James Haskell is out of all four games, while three possible replacements for the Wasps back row in Sam Jones, Mike Williams and Jack Clifford are also sidelined.

Picking Itoje in the number seven jersey appeared to be the next viable option available to head coach Eddie Jones, but his hand injury could scupper that plan to leave England seeking yet another alternative.

Reigning European player of the year Itoje has been magnificent since making his debut during this year's RBS 6 Nations and Jones can ill-afford to lose him.

The injury crisis plumbed fresh depths on Friday when Saracens second row George Kruis underwent surgery on an ankle problem, but McCall revealed he could yet play some part in the autumn.

"George complained about his ankle not feeling great in the week. We had it scanned and there were a couple of loose bodies," McCall said.

"It's a very minor thing, it's just not great timing for anybody. It will be a four to eight week injury. If he plays in the autumn, it all depends if it's good or bad.

"We think the operation went okay and now it all depends on the healing process."

The attrition rate at Allianz Park was even higher for the Scarlets, whose defeat may have troubling consequences for Wales.

Full-back Liam Williams rolled his ankle in the 14th minute and in the second half lock Jake Ball followed him into the treatment room, grimacing as he clutched his damaged ribs.

Williams has been earmarked for the number 15 jersey against Australia on November 5, while the in-form Ball has been pushing hard for a place in the starting XV.

"Hopefully Liam will be all right. He feels good in himself. He's in a moon boot to give him the best opportunity to recover and get into that Wales camp next week," Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac said.

"Jake is a bit sore at the moment. He has a rib injury and we'll get that checked out.

"Hopefully the injuries won't be too serious and we'll know more over the next couple of days."

Wales centre Scott Williams withdrew from the Scarlets team in the build up to the match.

"Scott has an ankle injury as well. There's a bit of swelling there and he just didn't quite recover in time. Another couple of days and he would have made it. He'll be fine to go into camp next week," Pivac said.

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