England’s deepening injury crisis has escalated further after Mike Williams became the fourth openside to be ruled out of the entire autumn series.
Williams has broken his arm for the third time in a year after sustaining the damage during a tackle drill in the warm-up to Leicester’s victory over Worcester on Saturday.
The uncapped 24-year-old will miss up to three months of action in the latest setback to England’s plans for their forthcoming internationals against South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia.
Already bereft of James Haskell and Jack Clifford, who have undergone foot and ankle surgery respectively, they then lost Sam Jones to a broken leg and ankle damage incurred while performing judo during the recent ill-fated training camp in Brighton.
Now Williams has been added to the list of players who were under consideration to start at openside, reducing the options available to head coach Eddie Jones to Maro Itoje and Chris Robshaw packing down either side of Billy Vunipola.
That would mean breaking Itoje’s successful second-row partnership with Saracens team-mate George Kruis.
On Williams’ injury, Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill said: “Mike is in a cast and will take some specialist advice, but it looks like 8-12 weeks and not 4-6 weeks because of the history of the injury.
“Mike felt he had done something and thought it was just a bang, but the medical guys looked at it and Mike was pulled out before the kick off.
“Mike is bitterly disappointed. You would have thought that had he continued the way he has been doing for the last couple of weeks he would have had a chance to play for England.”
Zimbabwe-born Williams is used as a blindside flanker at Leicester but was identified by Jones as a possibility to fill the void left by Haskell’s absence on account of his power in defence.
Along with Sam Jones, who has been ruled out for five months, his international aspirations are over for the time being, although England will at last be able to say his injury was not a result of the three days spent on the south coast.
Sam Jones and Anthony Watson endured autumn-ending injuries during the camp and Jack Nowell is likely to be added to that list because of a significantly torn quad.
Jones is to meet the 12 Aviva Premiership directors of rugby at a pre-arranged meeting in London on Thursday with the recent spate of injuries sure to top the agenda.