England backs coach Andy Farrell admits centre Jonathan Joseph is struggling for fitness ahead of their second Rugby World Cup encounter this weekend.
The Red Rose take on Wales at Twickenham on Saturday, after both sides came out on top of their opening clashes with Fiji and Uruguay respectively.
The loss of Joseph certainly would not spell the same injury crisis facing Wales – who lost another four experienced players against Uruguay after seeing Jonathan Davies, Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny ruled out before the tournament – but the 24-year-old would be a huge miss for head coach Stuart Lancaster.
He proved unstoppable during the Six Nations earlier this year, scoring a devastating four tries in five games, but Farrell is adamant that even if ‘JJ’ is ruled out England have more than enough capable men at their disposal in the midfield.
“There are a couple of knocks, as there are at the start of every week when we’ve had a Test beforehand – people who are not serious concerns,” he said.
“JJ has a bit of a knock, nothing too serious and our medical staff are working extremely hard to get him fit for selection behind closed doors until Thursday.
“We will give him every chance to put an England shirt on the weekend.
“He’s just got a knock on his chest and if he is fit for this weekend we will know by tomorrow internally. If he is not fit it will not be more than a week anyway probably.
“His absence doesn’t change the dynamic of the selection. We’ve picked these 31 players with all sorts of permutations in the back of our minds so the lads are happy to come in and perform come what may.
“Ben [Morgan] also has a little bang on his knee that isn’t serious at all. It’s just the normal stuff that happens.”
If Joseph is ruled out of Saturday’s showdown with Wales, that would open the door for either Sam Burgess – who impressed off the bench against Fiji – or Henry Slade to make his World Cup debut.
Indeed, both could feature after linking up well in England’s warm-up clash against France at Twickenham, and with No.12 Brad Barritt coming in for some criticism having made just six metres with the ball in hand against Fiji while giving away three penalties.
But Farrell backed the Saracens man to come good with only two games under his belt since coming back from a long-term injury.
He said: “His first game back was very good against Ireland. Like a number of others in the team at the weekend, he perhaps was a little bit quiet.
“But look; he’s a big game player is Brad. He’s been involved in some massive games for us and has made a massive difference.
“We can expect the same from him once again.”
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