England have suffered another setback ahead of their Guinness Six Nations title defence after Sam Underhill was withdrawn from Eddie Jones’ squad because of a hip injury.
Underhill would have started the opening fixture against Scotland at Twickenham on February 6 but he could now miss the entire tournament. Jack Willis has been named as his replacement.
News of his injury comes the day after prop Joe Marler pulled out of the 28-man squad to be with his family during the coronavirus pandemic and Joe Launchbury learned he would sit out the first three rounds with a broken leg.
Willis has been promoted from England’s 12-strong ‘shadow squad’ and will compete with Ben Earl and Mark Wilson for the vacancy created by Underhill’s absence.
Lewis Ludlam fills Willis’ slot in the second group of players, who are subject to the same Covid-19 testing procedures as the 28 in the event that injuries mean new personnel must be brought in.
Adding depth at loosehead prop and lock to the shadow squad in the wake of the withdrawal of Marler and Launchbury are Alex Hepburn and David Ribbans.