By Ali Stokes
Eddie Jones is set to be forced into starting Hurricanes blindside flanker Brad Shields at lock for England's clash with the Springboks in Bloemfontein this weekend with Wasps captain Joe Launchbury battling a calf injury that ruled him out of England's 39-42 loss in Johannesburg last weekend.
Launchbury is yet to train this week and with two rookie locks Nick Isiekwe and Jonny Hill left as the only natural second rows available, England have confirmed that Shields is likely to start in the engine room alongside Saracens star Maro Itoje.
“We feel with Brad and people like that we have got lock cover,” said Hatley. “If it comes down to that (start this weekend). He got close to 45 minutes in the second row anyway.”
This news will come as a hefty blow for 20-year-old Isiekwe, who was shown the shepherd's crook in the 35th minute of Saturday's game. Hatley was, however, adamant that Isiekwe would receive all the necessary support from the coaching staff.
“If we are going to progress with Nick we are going to need to keep giving him opportunities,” Hatley said. “We need to support him. We were fairly aggressive in some substitutions in Australia and it is about what is good for the team at the time, it is not an individual thing.
“Nick acknowledged where he was and he has applied himself on Monday and Tuesday, which is all we can ask. We have to support him.”
England have not yet given up hope of Launchbury recovering in time to play some part in the summer series.
"Joe was at training this morning (Tuesday) but was training on his own. He was movingly reasonably well so we'll see where he is later in the week," scrum coach Neal Hatley said.
"We'll see if he's able to train tomorrow. We need to see how he feels after seeing the physios."
Hatley added: “Joe was moving reasonably well this morning, so we’ll see where he is later in the week. We’ll see if he’s able to train tomorrow. We need to see how he feels after seeing the physios.”
Jones may be forced to call up a fifth second row should Shields struggle to play at lock for the first time in four years. England have already been forced into one late call up , with Worcester hooker Jack Singleton flown to South Africa as injury cover for Luke Cowan-Dickie, who has been struggling with hamstring tightness since Saturday's 42-39 defeat in Johannesburg, but has been given the all clear this morning.
"Luke was able to train. We did some live scrums and Luke took part in those. He's good," Hatley said.
England face an all or nothing task this weekend, desperate for a victory in Bloemfontein to ensure the series is still up for grabs in the third and final Test in Cape Town next Saturday.
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