Courtney Lawes is a doubt for the start of England’s autumn internationals campaign after pulling out of next week’s training camp in Jersey, raising questions over who will assume the captaincy in the series opener against Argentina next month.
Eddie Jones expressed confidence that Lawes would be available to face Argentina on 6 November when naming him in a 36-man squad on Monday and hinted he would continue as captain. His withdrawal from the training camp, therefore, must be considered a setback with Owen Farrell the likely candidate for the captaincy if Lawes is unavailable.
Lawes has not played since suffering a head injury on 24 September and is still progressing through the return-to-play protocols. No timeframe for his return has been set with the clock now ticking. London Irish’s Tom Pearson has been called up as a replacement.
England are not ruling Lawes out of facing Argentina and Jones did highlight that “he is nearly a 100-Test player so he knows when he is right and when he is not right”. Lawes could also conceivably appear for Northampton against Bristol on 29 October – England players who attend the Jersey camp will not be available for their clubs that weekend – to prove his fitness but there is a determination to ensure he is 100% fit before he is considered for selection.
Farrell, meanwhile, has not captained England since last November’s victory over Australia but would be the frontrunner if Lawes is absent. Tom Curry and Ellis Genge are also among the contenders. Earlier this week Jones suggested Lawes would stay in the role if fit after extolling the virtues of composed communication with referees.
Lawes was in a similar position in the buildup to this year’s Six Nations and ended up missing the first two matches. He was sidelined for six weeks before revealing that a trip to the specialist had identified a problem with his vestibular system which gave him symptoms including persistent headaches and affected vision caused by “headrush”.