Deacon"s blow forces England"s hand as Six Nations approaches

Deacon”s blow forces England”s hand as Six Nations approaches

England will almost certainly have to activate the loophole in the RFU’s edict against selecting players based overseas at the first opportunity, amid fears that Leicester lock Louis Deacon could be ruled out for the rest of the season.

The 31-year-old suffered a hamstring injury while leading the Tigers to victory at Worcester on Tuesday and Sportsmail understands that a scan has revealed a substantial tear in the muscle.

With the Midlands club resigned to being without Deacon for several months and possibly the remainder of the campaign, his latest cruel setback will also have a major bearing on England selection.

Louis Deacon Dave Attwood

Blow: An injury to Louis Deacon (left) could mean promotion for Dave Attwood (right) as the Six Nations approaches

New head coach Stuart Lancaster names his Six Nations squad on January 11 and he has precious few second-row contenders to consider. The loss of Deacon means that, in theory, Courtney Lawes of Northampton is the sole specialist lock available out of the quartet who went to New Zealand for the World Cup. Simon Shaw has subsequently joined Toulon and Tom Palmer is also in France, at Stade Francais.

The RFU ruling against the selection of players based abroad is designed to protect the interests of the Aviva Premiership clubs, who have struggled to compete with the salaries on offer across the Channel. Yet, the measure contains a get-out clause, as those playing overseas can be picked in ‘exceptional’ circumstances.

Now that Deacon is out of contention, the second row picture is exceptionally grave. Bath’s Dave Attwood is certain to be promoted from the Saxons squad and another of Saracens’ Anglo-South African contingent, Mouritz Botha, may also make the step up after coming on as a replacement against Wales at Twickenham in the World Cup warm-up game in August. Nick Kennedy of London Irish is a further option, but he is only just returning to action after injury.

Harlequins lock George Robson has emerged as a contender on the back of outstanding form this season, but he is another Test rookie. Attwood and Botha have next-to-no senior international experience between them and even Lawes has only 13 caps to his name.