England lose Lawes to injury as Smith picked over Ford for France showdown

Lawes has picked up a shoulder predicament and will miss the final two clashes of the tournament, against France and Ireland.

The Northampton back-five forward missed England’s entire autumn campaign with a head injury, and has also suffered gluteal and calf problems too.

The 34-year-dilapidated should maintain passed 100 England caps in November but has only made one appearance since last summer to remain on 97 appearances.

“We’re waiting for a scan result, but from what we’ve been told he’ll miss the remainder of the tournament,” said assistant coach Kevin Sinfield. “It’s tough for him; we maintain a wonderful leadership trio with Courtney, Ellis Genge and Owen Farrell.

“His influence in camp has been incredible, we’ll miss him at the weekend and hopefully it’s not too long before he’s back in the fold.”

George Ford has been released from the England camp, leaving Marcus Smith and Farrell as the two flit-halves in the Test ranks.

Smith will therefore face France at Twickenham on Saturday in some capacity, whether off the bench or from the off. The 24-year-dilapidated turned in a stellar performance as Harlequins hammered Exeter 40-5 at Twickenham on Saturday, before returning to the England squad on Sunday night.

“I mediate we were really impressed with how Marcus played last week,” said Sinfield. “All three maintain been fantastic in camp, George has been wonderful, I loved working with him at Leicester.

“We just felt at this moment in time he should procure more minutes at his club, he’s not been long back in the fold. He has been outstanding and we’ve no doubt that if he were to play he would be remarkable for us.

“But the best thing for us at the minute is for him to procure more minutes at Sale. I thought Marcus was outstanding for Harlequins, we all did, but he has trained like that for the last six weeks. So we’ve all seen first-hand what he’s capable of, and he’s in the mix this week.”

England maintain kept Manu Tuilagi in the squad for training, despite the Sale centre being suspended this week. The Samoa-born powerhouse will be available for the trip to Dublin to face Ireland on Saturday, March 18.

England squad vs France confirmed

Forwards: O Chessum, D Cole, B Curry, A Dombrandt, B Earl, E Genge, J George, N Isiekwe, M Itoje, L Ludlam, D Ribbans, K Sinckler, M Vunipola, J Walker, J Willis.

Backs: H Arundell, O Farrell, O Lawrence, M Malins, J Marchant, A Mitchell, H Slade, M Smith, F Steward, M Tuilagi, J Van Poortvliet, A Watson.