|Phil Vickery, right, and Brian Ashton will first have to
play the waiting game [GALLO/GETTY]
England suffered yet another injury setback before Sunday’s Six Nations game against Italy when captain and prop Phil Vickery strained a calf in training.
“At this stage it is too early to say definitively whether or not Phil will be fit for Sunday’s match,” the Rugby Football Union said in a statement, adding that Bristol’s uncapped Jason Hobson has been drafted in from the Saxons squad and will travel to Rome, as will Vickery.
England lost their other first-choice prop on Wednesday when loosehead Andrew Sheridan was ruled out with a leg abscess after a cut on his heel became infected.
Matt Stevens, named on the bench for Sunday’s game, is the natural stand-in for Vickery, having replaced him during most of England’s games during the World Cup and started in his place for three matches following his captain’s suspension.
Tim Payne has been named to start in place of Sheridan and though he is a great scrummager, the loss of the mighty Sheridan removes some of the power from England’s front row.
Coach Brian Ashton had already had to make changes after injuries to centre Mike Tindall (bruised liver), wing David Strettle (foot) and flankers Tom Rees (knee) and Lewis Moody (Achilles) ruled them out.
If Vickery fails to recover then Ashton will need to name a new captain, with Jonny Wilkinson the most likely candidate.