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Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Thursday, 27 January 2011

England's Hendre Fourie in fitness race to face Wales

Hendre Fourie
Fourie won his first four England caps during the autumn internationals

England manager Martin Johnson hopes Hendre Fourie will be fit for selection for England's Six Nations opener against Wales a week on Friday.

The 31-year-old remains a doubt with a calf strain and is being monitored at England's training camp in Portugal.

Centre Mike Tindall has undergone an MRI scan on a blow to the thigh, but is set to resume training next week.

"We think Fourie will be fit to train by the end of this week, or if not, early next week," said Johnson.

"Hopefully he will be ready to go."

With England captain Lewis Moody set to miss the first two rounds of Six Nations matches, Fourie is in contention for only his second Test start, having also won three caps off the bench in the autumn.

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But if his return to training is delayed, Johnson also now has Northampton's uncapped flanker Tom Wood in his elite squad, while veteran Joe Worsley could also play at open-side.

England are also hoping Northampton wing Chris Ashton proves his fitness for the opening game, having not played for his club because of a thigh injury since their defeat at Leicester on 8 January.

Meanwhile, Gloucester centre Tindall left England's training camp on Wednesday in order to undergo an MRI scan in London after sustaining a blow to a thigh in training.

The scan confirmed there was no major damage and he is due to return to training with the squad when they reassemble at their Bagshot base this weekend.

Fourie suffered his injury early in Leeds' European Challenge Cup win over Bucuresti last Sunday at Headingley, but continued until the 20 minute mark before being replaced.

He told BBC Radio Leeds after the game: "Maybe I should have come off earlier, but you never want to come off, do you. I always want to stay on for as long as possible.

"I got a tweak in the calf. It doesn't feel too bad but you never know until the swelling goes down and you get it assessed.

"It might have been a bit of scar tissue that's gone, or maybe just a bit of tightness. Lewis [Moody] thought he'd just picked up a minor injury and then it turns out he's out for six weeks."

The calf in question is the same one that Fourie injured during England's summer tour of Australia. That forced the South African-born player to leave the tour early and miss most of pre-season with Leeds, after he needed an operation.

However despite Leeds not being able to qualify for the knock-out stages of the Challenge Cup, the former Rotherham man has no regrets that both he and England team-mate Steve Thompson started the dead rubber against the Romanians.

"I wanted to play. The more I play the more my consistency improves. I am one of those players that needs to be playing regularly.

"I feel the more I play the more I feel I keep my form. So no there was never a doubt of me not playing in this game."

Leeds director of rugby Andy Key also defended his decision to field Fourie and Thompson at Headingley.

Key explained to BBC Radio Leeds: "At the end of the day the players do need to support their clubs and that's why they played.

"It's important our team continues to develop and the squad continues to understand what it's trying to do and they are two important members of the squad.

"We understand and support massively that there is a big campaign coming up for both Hendre and Thommo in the Six Nations.

"But as a club with Leeds Carnegie we need to continue in our development and there are two key people in that equation.

"So they now go to England with our best wishes and we will continue to develop the side without them in the next few weeks."



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