Maro Itoje will be available for the start of England’s Six Nations title defence after Saracens revealed he faces a maximum of four more weeks in rehabilitation.
Itoje required surgery on a fractured jaw sustained in the 20-19 defeat at Harlequins on December 3, resulting in two plates being inserted into his face and raising the alarm that he may not be fit to face Italy on February 4.
But a visit to the specialist offered a diagnosis of up to six weeks in the treatment room, pointing to a return for the final two rounds of Saracens’ Champions Cup group campaign against the Ospreys and Northampton.
“Maro is probably three or four weeks away. He went to see the specialist who said a maximum of six weeks and he’s already done a week and a half,” director of rugby Mark McCall said.
Itoje, a Test British and Irish Lion, departed in the 48th minute at Twickenham Stoop following a collision with England team-mate Mike Brown.
The world player of the year nominee was given a reduced role in the autumn series due to Eddie Jones’ desire to manage his workload, missing the opener against Argentina, playing as a replacement for the visit of Australia before starting against Samoa.
The news isn't so positive for Richard Wigglesworth, however.
The scrum-half has been ruled out for two months as a result of the hip injury he picked up against Clermont Auvergne on Monday night.
Saracens captain Brad Barritt also faces some time on the sidelines after suffering concussion and will definitely miss the return leg in France on Sunday.
And hooker Jamie George revealed the players met up on their scheduled day off to talk things through in order to prepare themselves for a tough test in France.
"We got a few things off our chest,” George said. “It’s best to get everyone together after a game like that because everyone has their own feelings and everyone is hurting but it’s better to hurt together and then you can move past it.
"We just had a lunch, nothing mad. We had a bit of a chat, in little groups, nothing formal and then we came in on Wednesday and focused on the rugby. We’ve cleared the air in terms of what we need to get right on the field.
"We got the elephant in the room out and we have a good plan going into Clermont on Sunday. We have definitely learnt a lesson from being taught a lesson.”