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Page last updated at 17:47 GMT, Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Abendanon to miss England Tests

Bath full-back Nick Abendanon
Abendanon was favourite to start at 15 after his good form for Bath

Bath full-back Nick Abendanon's hopes of starting England's first autumn Test against the Pacific Islands have been dashed by an injured left big toe.

He has been released back to his club after a scan revealed he requires a rest period of two-to-four weeks.

That is likely to rule him out of both the Pacific Islands game on 8 November and the Test with Australia, and possibly the entire autumn series.

Eight players were already released back to their clubs on Tuesday.

They included versatile Wasps back Josh Lewsey, who was originally named in the squad as a full-back but has been playing at wing and centre of late.

Another full-back contender, Mathew Tait, is battling to shake off a hamstring injury, meaning the only fit contender at present is Delon Armitage of London Irish, who was not in either the elite squad or the second-string Saxons squad at the start of the season, but was fast-tracked into the senior squad as cover for Tait last week.

England have opted not to summon a replacement for Abendanon, who was capped twice in 2007.

It is a massive thing guys don't play at the weekend so they can come into the Test week fresh

Martin Johnson
The other players released to play for their clubs in the EDF Energy Cup this weekend were Gloucester centre Olly Barkley, Leicester trio George Chuter, Jordan Crane and Dan Hipkiss, London Irish duo Shane Geraghty and Peter Richards, and Wasps prop Tim Payne.

But Chuter has suffered a mild knee ligament strain in training, and will not be fit to play for Leicester against Sale on Friday.

The eight are scheduled to return to the England camp on Sunday, but their release suggests they are not at the forefront of manager Martin Johnson's thinking for the Pacific Islands game.

Earlier this week, Johnson said he wanted his players fresh for the arduous programme of four Tests in four weeks.

"It is a massive thing guys don't play at the weekend so they can come into the Test week fresh," said Johnson. "This gives them the best opportunity to perform."

With Barkley and Geraghty both released, Wasps' converted New Zealander Riki Flutey is in line to make his England debut a week on Saturday.

Junior All Black Flutey, who qualified last month via the three-year residency rule, is likely to start at inside centre, unless Johnson pairs Toby Flood and Danny Cipriani together in midfield.

Flood, plus Bath hooker Lee Mears and Newcastle centre Jamie Noon, have all resumed training after shaking off injuries.

Noon is set to start at outside centre with Hipkiss going back to Leicester, although Tait could also be considered at 13 if he recovers fitness.

With Lewsey also departing, Ugo Monye - promoted from the second-string Saxons last week to replace the injured James Simpson-Daniel - could start on the left wing against the Pacific Islanders.

Mears and Northampton's Dylan Hartley will fight it out for the hooking berth, Matt Stevens and Phil Vickery at tight-head prop, with the other on the bench, given that Andrew Sheridan is a shoo-in at loose-head prop.

With Steve Borthwick installed as captain, Simon Shaw, Nick Kennedy and Tom Palmer are fighting for the one remaining berth at lock.

There is also strong competition at blind-side flanker between James Haskell and Tom Croft; Tom Rees is set to start at open-side ahead of Michael Lipman, while the number eight position is uncertain.

If Luke Narraway, who impressed on the summer tour to New Zealand, fails to shake off a hamstring injury, Nick Easter - who was demoted to the Saxons by Johnson - could win a surprise recall.

The availability of Narraway and Tait, who are being treated by England's medical team, should be known by Monday, 3 November.

Forwards: Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Lee Mears (Bath), George Chuter (Leicester)*; Andrew Sheridan (Sale), Tim Payne (Wasps)*, Matt Stevens (Bath), Phil Vickery (Wasps); Steve Borthwick (Saracens), Nick Kennedy (London Irish), Tom Palmer (Wasps), Simon Shaw (Wasps); Jordan Crane (Leicester)*, Tom Croft (Leicester), Nick Easter (Harlequins), James Haskell (Wasps), Michael Lipman (Bath), Luke Narraway (Gloucester), Tom Rees (Wasps).

Backs: Delon Armitage (London Irish), Mathew Tait (Sale); Josh Lewsey (Wasps)*, Ugo Monye (Harlequins), Paul Sackey (Wasps); Jamie Noon (Newcastle), Olly Barkley (Gloucester)*, Dan Hipkiss (Leicester)*, Toby Flood (Leicester), Shane Geraghty (London Irish)*, Riki Flutey (Wasps), Danny Cipriani (Wasps); Danny Care (Harlequins), Harry Ellis (Leicester), Peter Richards (London Irish)*.

(* denotes player released to play for club at the weekend)

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see also
Pick your England XV
27 Oct 08 |  Squad Selector
Simpson-Daniel out of Test plans
23 Oct 08 |  Gloucester
Inside Sport: Danny Cipriani
07 Oct 08 |  Inside Sport
Comeback display pleases Cipriani
01 Oct 08 |  London Wasps
Wasps 23-27 Bath
01 Oct 08 |  English
Cipriani targets October return
31 Aug 08 |  English
Cipriani eager to regain fitness
08 Jul 08 |  London Wasps
Clubs agree truce with Twickenham
15 Nov 07 |  Rugby Union

related internet links:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

The Times Wasps give Johnson selection headache - 30 hrs ago
The Times Blow for Johnson's first XV as Wasps stall - 32 hrs ago
The Sun LEICESTER ace Toby Flood aims to go from forgotten man to England superstar - 53 hrs ago
The Sun Toby comes Flooding back - 53 hrs ago
Independent Higgins punches hole in Dragons' defensive core - 55 hrs ago


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