Ellis Genge and Joe Marler have been helping plot South Africa’s downfall from self-isolation as England prepare to face the world champions with a rookie front row.
Genge misses the climax to the autumn at Twickenham on Saturday after testing positive for coronavirus while Marler does not end his spell in quarantine until the eve of the game.
What role Marler will play in the rematch of the 2019 World Cup final will be revealed at Thursday’s team announcement but given the absentees at prop and hooker, he is sure to be involved.
Jamie George has been ruled out because of a knee injury sustained in the 32-15 victory over Australia, becoming the second front line hooker lost to the treatment room in the wake of Luke Cowan-Dickie’s ankle problem.
It leaves 23-year-old Jamie Blamire, who has scored six tries in four Tests but has made only three starts for his club Newcastle, to pack down in the number two jersey with the uncapped Nic Dolly offering cover from the bench.
At loosehead, 21-year-old Bevan Rodd will win a second cap after acquitting himself well on his Test bow when acting as emergency cover against the Wallabies as the established looseheads recovered from Covid.
Forwards coach Matt Proudfoot insists England refuse to be daunted by the prospect of facing the game’s most feared scrum with such depleted resources as Genge and Marler lend their assistance from their hotel rooms.
“It’s not just about what Joe has off the field, but what he has on the field as well. The front row have been in contact, they’ve been working together as a front row with Joe involved,” Proudfoot said.
“He’s been giving guys advice. Ellis has been giving advice as well. We try and keep it as tight as possible in the front row and there’s a lot of knowledge to be passed on.
Squad update | Owen Farrell and Jamie George have withdrawn from the squad due to injury, with Harry Elrington and Jack Singleton called up in preparation for Saturday's match against South Africa.
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“Taking on the word champions is always a challenge and the scrum is going to be an area they’re very strong at.
“We’ve worked incredibly hard, the players are quality players and they’re determined to pull off the plan we’ve put into place and I’m sure it’ll be a great contest.
“A big part of this England set-up is resilience. Every setback is an opportunity for us. You either attack it or you let the opportunity dictate.
“That’s Eddie Jones’ philosophy which the team have bought into. Whatever happens we see it as an opportunity. Whatever comes we’ll attack it and make the best out of it.
“This is the most important game of the year for us. Our team is growing and developing. This is the most important hurdle for us.”
England were bulldozed at the scrum in Yokohama two years ago to lay the foundations for a crushing 32-12 defeat in the World Cup final, but the aim of avenging that set-piece horror show has been undermined by the injuries and Covid outbreak.
“We have two passionate packs of forwards who want to put their best foot forward,” Proudfoot said.
“The battle for momentum starts at the scrum, the side who wins those first couple of inches at a scrum time tends to win the penalties later in the game.
“The first half will be incredibly competitive. It will be about the two sides trying to build dominance throughout the game.”