England boss Eddie Hones admits he is “optimistic” that Maro Itoje will return from injury in time for England’s Six Nations game against Wales in Cardiff on February 23.
The Saracens star suffered a grade two medial ligament tear in his knee last weekend during the gutsy win over Ireland. As a result, he will miss the visit of France to Twickenham on Sunday, with Courtney Lawes taking his place.
Joe Launchbury will start on the bench as the battle for places continues. However, Itoje may now play against Wales with his recovery going quicker than originally anticipated.
“It’s unfortunate Maro is injured but he has been rehabbing well so we are hopeful he will be back earlier than maybe first predicted,” Jones said.
“We have got great depth in the squad so Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes will fill his shoes very well.
“Maro is not far away. He was almost available for selection this week.But he is not and we have three good locks so two will start and one will finish.”
When asked if Itoje will be ready to face Wales, Jones replied: “I am always optimistic.” Lawes and Chris Ashton are the only two changes to England’s starting XV for this week’s game against France.
England are as short as 1.14 to beat France on home soil, while they are now 1.67 to win the tournament outright. They will also fancy their chances of winning the triple crown and they can be backed to do so at odds of 2.50.