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SIX NATIONS 2012: England front row outstanding, Ben Kay

Ben Kay: Young guns in the front row lead the way for Lancaster's England

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UPDATED:

22:02 GMT, 18 March 2012

England's scrummaging on Saturday was fantastic. People had been talking up the Irish scrum but England blew them away and Dan Cole took apart Cian Healy, who has been tipped to be the Lions loosehead. Mike Ross came off with an injury but by then he had already been destroyed by Alex Corbisiero.

What struck me was the comparative body shapes of the two front rows. England had so much more strength and athleticism. While the props played a major role in establishing dominance, it is also important to acknowledge the part played by hooker Dylan Hartley.

Fronting up: Dan Cole (left), Dylan Hartley (centre) and Alex Corbisiero (right)

Fronting up: Dan Cole (left), Dylan Hartley (centre) and Alex Corbisiero (right)

This was another sign of how England benefit from the set-piece focus in the Aviva Premiership. Coaches like Richard Cockerill at Leicester and Dorian West at Northampton have a real appetite for scrummaging, so other teams have to work hard at it too – more so than the sides in the RaboDirect Pro12.

England have become one of the best scrummaging nations in the world although their relative inexperience was exposed by Wales. At tighthead, Cole will beat anyone in a fair, one-on-one pushing contest. He and Corbisiero are still young and they are developing fast.

Ben Morgan had a superb game for England, with the scrum advantage putting him on the front foot. England were able to wheel around at will so it allowed him a free pick-up with space to attack.

Overall, England had a very good campaign. They showed doggedness to beat Scotland and Italy, and that bonded them as a team.

Colossus: Ben Morgan was outstanding for England

Colossus: Ben Morgan was outstanding for England

A sign of how a side are functioning comes from the backroom staff, because the players spend a lot of time with those guys. On Saturday I spoke to the kit man, masseuse and physios, who all said it had been as good an eight weeks as they’ve had.

England need to focus on being more accurate, as there have been a lot of handling mistakes which nearly cost them a win against France.

In midfield, Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi have been good individually, but they need to develop together as a pair.

England also need greater accuracy in the line-out.

Stuart Lancaster has created a positive atmosphere in the squad that everyone wants to be part of, so has done enough to get the head coach job.

Ben Kay is a rugby analyst for ESPN’s Aviva Premiership coverage

Jonah is my hero but I just wanted to be a No 8, says Morgan

Jonah is my hero but I just wanted to be a No 8, says Morgan

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UPDATED:

22:33 GMT, 15 March 2012

If Ben Morgan had not set off on his
convoluted, cross-border route to the England team via Merthyr and
Llanelli in Wales, he might have reluctantly ended up on the wing at
Cinderford, striving in vain to emulate his idol, Jonah Lomu.

The 23-year-old Scarlets No 8 has
been a revelation in this RBS Six Nations as one of the newcomers in
Stuart Lancaster’s overhauled national team. Having acted as deputy to
Phil Dowson in the opening victories over Scotland and Italy, Morgan
earned promotion to the starting XV and signalled his emergence as a
Test forward of rich promise with a storming break to set up Ben Foden’s
try in the win over France in Paris.

Ben Morgan

JONAH LOMU

Huge presence: Ben Morgan (left) and Jonah Lomu

He has the look of a natural, forceful ball-carrier operating from the base of the scrum but years ago, when he was much heavier and less agile, the Bristolian by birth sought to develop his career further west in Merthyr, rather than accept the prospect of being transferred out wide.

LEGENDS AT THE STOOP

England and Ireland legends run out at The Stoop on Friday night to raise money for seriously injured players.

Ex-England captain Martin Corry leads a side featuring Jason Robinson, Austin Healey, Jason Leonard and Richard Cockerill against an Irish team led by Shane /03/15/article-2115546-122F0EA5000005DC-508_468x377.jpg” width=”468″ height=”377″ alt=”Ben Morgan runs with the ball during the England training session” class=”blkBorder” />

Ben Morgan runs with the ball during the England training session

‘I went across and played for the Blues
Under 20s in three games,’ he said. ‘The last game was against the
Scarlets Under 20s and they offered me a contract.’

During his time at Merthyr, there was a regular spectator who has gone on to grand things himself.

Sam Warburton’s twin, Ben, played in the same side as Morgan. When the
rising star who would go on to captain Wales had some spare time, he
came along to games to support his brother, who is now a conditioning
coach at the Dragons academy and Newport. While Ben didn’t quite make
the grade, his English team-mate did and feels his unconventional
journey has served him well.

‘Regardless of whether I’ve come through Welsh or English rugby, I have
played for different clubs against teams that I might not have come
across if I’d just come through an academy and that has definitely
changed me,’ he said. ‘You have to learn things the hard way sometimes.
I’ve always just loved playing rugby. I never questioned it because
there was no-one watching or it was wet and I couldn’t be bothered. I
always wanted to play, I love playing the game.

‘Where I’ve come from is massively different to where I am now. But it’s
not hurt me the route I’ve come. It’s helped to mould me into what I am
now so I’m really grateful to all the help I’ve had at every club I’ve
been at.’

On the charge: Ben Morgan against France

On the charge: Ben Morgan against France

Despite making such a dynamic impact against France, Morgan still
regards his debut against Scotland as the pinnacle so far, but
everything is happening so fast that he barely has time to take it all
in.

He’ll try to ‘sit back and take stock’ after the championship finale
against Ireland at Twickenham, but there won’t be much time to
do so, as he will be back on duty for the Scarlets in a Welsh derby
against the Blues in Cardiff next Saturday.

Lancaster described the England head coaching role as his
‘dream job’ after recalling David Strettle on the wing in his starting
XV and Lee Mears on the bench as the replacement hooker in an otherwise
unchanged matchday 22 to take on Ireland.

It"s win or bust for Andy Robinson: Chris Foy

It's win or bust for Robinson after too much foolish talk

It will be full to the rafters at
Murrayfield on Sunday and the assembled Scottish patriots will witness
an occasion where the stakes scarcely could be higher.

The English coach of their struggling
national team has backed himself into the tightest of corners. At face
value, there is nowhere left to turn. It’s reached win-or-bust time for
Andy Robinson’s regime north of the border and that fraught scenario is
self-imposed.

In the build-up to Scotland’s opening
RBS Six Nations fixture against England, Robinson delivered a blunt
ultimatum to his team and himself. With echoes of Clive Woodward’s
famous ‘judge me on the World Cup’ declaration during the turbulent
period prior to the 1999 tournament, his former assistant said: ‘We have
to beat England and we have to beat Wales in the game afterwards.

Nervous glances: Andy Robinson watches Scotland's defeat to Wales

Nervous glances: Andy Robinson watches Scotland's defeat to Wales

‘I do not want to be Scotland coach
if we lose most of our games. People have a right to expect better. We
have to start winning now and we cannot hide any more. Maybe I am
putting pressure on the team and myself but that is good. We must win.’

More from Chris Foy…

World of Rugby: Boost for Lancaster as Mallinder snubs England role
16/02/12

World of Rugby: Ferris case tips rugby's credibility over the edge
09/02/12

World of Rugby: Saint-Andre must not shy away from being French
02/02/12

Chris Foy: Braveheart Shingler digs in, but IRB may deny him
26/01/12

Chris Foy: Cockerill is much safer than his French rivals
19/01/12

Chris Foy: Who should lead Lions Gatland's the mane man
12/01/12

Chris Foy: England coach Lancaster taking care to placate the rugby public
05/01/12

Chris Foy's World of Rugby: Bath running cold while Craig splashes the cash
29/12/11

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

All well and good, except that it
hasn’t happened. The game against England ended in Scottish defeat at
home, then the following match against Wales ended in Scottish defeat at
the Millennium Stadium. So the two games they had to win, according to
Robinson, his team have lost. Now, in front of their loyal but
increasingly exasperated public, Scotland have to break the cycle
against the pre-championship favourites, in their second and final home
game of this campaign.

The pivotal encounter comes against a
backdrop of turmoil, with defence coach Graham Steadman and attack
coach Gregor Townsend on their way out, and Scott Johnson — having
hurriedly left the Ospreys — due to join the management team at the end
of the season. Now the focus will be on the man in charge, on whose
watch Scotland have lost nine out of 12 Six Nations games.

If Robinson is true to his word, that he does not want to coach Scotland if they lose most of their games, then he needs a win to maintain credibility, but 12 of the last 13 encounters with France have ended in defeat. Without a shock, backs-to-the-wall victory, the visit to Rome on March 17 is looming as yet another wooden spoon decider.

All the while, rumours of Robinson’s imminent return to Bath grow louder. That prospect may soon shift from a possibility to a probability.

Premiership’s No 1 for excitement

Last weekend’s action in the Aviva Premiership provided further proof that it is surely the most competitive league in the world. All six matches were settled by single-figure margins — not great news for the heart-rate of coaches and fans, but certainly not dull.

To date this season, 63 of the 90 games played have been won by nine points or less (or drawn), which shows that the cliche about ‘no easy games’ really does apply. For the record, any carping from the Celtic countries, France or the southern hemisphere is unnecessary — this is not another blind claim that the English league is the best of all, just the hardest-fought; a significant difference.

Old friends at Twickenham

There will be a small-world feel to the two matches taking place at Twickenham on Saturday, with strong links between the England and Wales men’s and women’s teams.

In the home ranks, Manu Tuilagi starts in midfield and a fellow former pupil from John Cleveland College, Hinckley, Vicky Fleetwood, lines up at hooker in the all-conquering England women’s team.

Familiar faces: Vicky Fleetwood and Manu Tuilagi

Familiar faces: Vicky Fleetwood and Manu Tuilagi

Fleetwood was in the year above Tuilagi at school and her brother played alongside the mighty Samoan-born centre.

‘I used to watch them — Manu played on the wing for the first team and my brother was a centre,’ she said.

The pair have remained friends since school days and Tuilagi was a spectator last November as Fleetwood and Co beat New Zealand. ‘I was impressed by the physicality and skill of the players,’ he said.

Quotes of the week

'He’s big and square and heavy, and difficult to move – that’s it really!’

England prop Dan Cole deconstructs some of the myths about scrummaging technique with this assessment of Wales tighthead Adam Jones.

‘We are confident that we can shut Wales down and hopefully kill off some of their strike runners.’

The way Ben Foden talks, it sounds like England’s players will be armed, dangerous and taking no prisoners at Twickenham…

The last word

The Irish Rugby Football Union are reportedly considering a bid for the 2023 World Cup. While deliberations are only at an early, theoretical stage, this bubble needs bursting straight away.

There is no way at all that the tournament can be staged in Ireland, unless part of a broader Celtic package. The World Cup has become a colossal event and the infrastructure demands are beyond the scope of most individual Test nations.

That may be perceived as unfair, but it is an inescapable truth. Once England and Japan have hosted the next two tournaments, it should be time to consider Italy or Argentina — who have the size and capability to lay on a fitting spectacle without outside assistance.

Being awarded a World Cup would act as a catalyst for significant rugby development in these countries, something Ireland doesn’t need to the same extent.

Chris Foy: Stephen Ferris case tips rugby"s credibility

Ferris case tips rugby's credibility over the edge

Zero tolerance More like zero commonsense. The draconian global crackdown on the menace of so-called 'tip-tackles' is now in a state of disarray in the aftermath of the cases involving Bradley Davies and Stephen Ferris.

On Wednesday evening, the Irish Rugby Union released a statement which betrayed incredulity after their flanker, Ferris, was cleared. They revealed that the disciplinary panel not only suggested the Ulsterman should not have been cited but that the incident should not have even resulted in a decisive penalty to Wales. Quite right, too.

Danger zone: Stephen Ferris is sent to the sin bin for a tip tackle

Danger zone: Stephen Ferris is sent to the sin bin for a tip tackle

While Davies was guilty of an outrageous, malevolent offence in picking up Donnacha Ryan and dumping him upside down in a fit of rage, Ferris was ludicrously hard done by. His tackle on Ian Evans presented no danger to the ball- carrier, but referee Wayne Barnes applied the letter of the law. Under IRB law 10.4 (j), it is illegal to lift a player and drop or drive them into the ground 'whilst that player's feet are still off the ground'.

More from Chris Foy…

World of Rugby: Saint-Andre must not shy away from being French
02/02/12

Chris Foy: Braveheart Shingler digs in, but IRB may deny him
26/01/12

Chris Foy: Cockerill is much safer than his French rivals
19/01/12

Chris Foy: Who should lead Lions Gatland's the mane man
12/01/12

Chris Foy: England coach Lancaster taking care to placate the rugby public
05/01/12

Chris Foy's World of Rugby: Bath running cold while Craig splashes the cash
29/12/11

Chris Foy: Referees should be invisible, not tweeting the players
22/12/11

Chris Foy: Seasons in the sun would be very easy to handle
15/12/11

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

The emphasis is on removing the threat of a player having no control of their movement, which can expose them to the risk of serious injury. But Evans had one leg in the air, one foot on the ground. He landed in a controlled manner on one arm. It was not dangerous, but the authorities have demanded a black-and-white approach to a problem that has shades of grey. This is the health and safety culture gate-crashing rugby. /02/09/article-2099025-1199C816000005DC-839_233x333.jpg” width=”233″ height=”333″ alt=”Wales' James Hook (R) congratulates teammate Jonathan Davies” class=”blkBorder” />

While they ultimately sealed their success courtesy of the penalty kicked by Leigh Halfpenny from that contentious challenge by Ferris, Warren Gatland's side were magnificent in rising to the occasion despite the absence of so many leading players. The off-loads by Rhys Priestland and George North which set up Jonathan Davies's two tries were acts of supreme skill. It was a display which served to make a mockery of this column's prediction last week that Ireland were potential champions. Yet, such was the quality of the match that the humble pie didn't taste too bad.

Snow joke, improve coverage!

Week one of this year's championship produced some strange television coverage. The BBC gantry at the Stade de France in Paris was evidently so exposed to the bitter elements that host Gabby Logan and her guest pundits appeared in danger of succumbing to hypothermia. Out on the field, viewers were treated to all manner of bizarre camera angles via the local 'feed'. At one stage, as the Italy team gathered in a huddle after conceding a try, the pictures could have been described as 'calf-cam', as the camera zoomed from ground level, up between a player's legs. The next day in Dublin, on-field stoppages presented an opportunity for shots of fans, invariably with faces painted, reacting with demented glee at the sight of themselves on the big screen. This is not good television. Stop it at once!

A bare necessity

England's urgent need for a permanent, state-of-the-art training centre was laid bare again this week by the sudden blast of freezing weather and snow. The national team's base at Pennyhill Park Hotel in Surrey provides ample luxury, but the single outdoor pitch is not sufficient. Wales have their 'barn' – a superb indoor facility at the Vale of Glamorgan – and France have a covered pitch at Marcoussis.

Snow joke: England rugby players were unable to train properly during the recent cold snap

Snow joke: England rugby players were unable to train properly during the recent cold snap

England have previously switched training to Surrey Sports Park in Guildford, used by Harlequins, but on Tuesday the squad made the three-hour round trip to spend a day at the London Soccer Dome next door to the O2 Arena. Perhaps it was a coincidence but the previous day a new sponsorship deal with the mobile phone company had been announced.

The last word

The sad saga of Dan Parks' retirement highlights the ordeal often faced by players whose accent does not tally with the Test shirt they wear. Surely, there can be no doubt that the hounding of the Scotland fly-half stemmed from the issue of nationality. Parks was born and raised in Australia so, despite qualifying through a maternal grandfather from Ayrshire, he was always regarded as an outsider. No matter that his kicking prowess delivered famous Scottish victories, such as recent ones over Ireland in Dublin, at home against South Africa and back-to-back in Argentina. When the wheels came off, the No 10 without the full tartan heritage was the regular fall-guy. Parks won more games for Scotland than many players born there. Hopefully, he will be remembered well one day.

Billy Twelvetrees move to Gloucester announced but Leicester chief unhappy

Twelvetrees move to Gloucester announced but Leicester chief unhappy with switch

Gloucester have confirmed the signing of one of English rugby's brightest prospects, Billy Twelvetrees, from Leicester.

The Kingsholm club released a statement to say the 23-year-old, whose move south has been one of the worst-kept secrets in the game for the last week, has penned a two-year deal effective from June.

The centre or fly-half has spoken of his desire to play at number 12 – something he is expecting to be able to do with Gloucester.

Transfer: Billy Twelvetrees will be on the move

Transfer: Billy Twelvetrees will be on the move

Pre-empting the move, Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill called Twelvetrees decision to switch clubs 'disappointing', but the player himself insists he remains indebted to the Tigers.

He said: 'I’m incredibly grateful to everyone at the Tigers for the role they’ve played in helping me to get to this point in my career and, of course, all the support from the fans I’ve had over the last three years.

'It’s not been an easy decision to make but I am looking forward to joining Gloucester in the summer and being part of what is shaping up to be an incredibly talented young English back line.

'In the meantime, though, I’ll be fully committed to helping make the rest of the season as successful as possible for Leicester.'

But speaking after his Tigers side defeat of Harlequins 19-9 in the LV= Cup, Cockerill was less than impressed by the way the move to Gloucester has been handled.

He said: 'Billy’s chosen to move on. That’s his choice; it’s disappointing but that’s life.

Disappointment: Leicester's Richard Cockerill was upset with the way the whole affair was handled

Disappointment: Leicester's Richard Cockerill was upset with the way the whole affair was handled

'I’d rather deal with people face-to-face and be up front. George Skivington is leaving, he came and spoke to me and explained his reasons why. I shook his hand and said “thanks very much” and wished him all the best.

'That’s how I prefer to do business. That’s okay. Billy’s a young man and he’ll learn to do things differently as he matures – as I have.'

On the pitch, Leicester got off to the perfect start thanks to Andy Forsyth’s converted try in the fifth minute, before Quins replied with a Rory Clegg penalty.

Fly-half Clegg added two more penalties in the second half but while Quins could not fashion a try, the Tigers added two more through Alex Lewington’s solo score and number eight Ben Pienaar’s well-worked touchdown.

'It was a bit of an odd game really, both sides trying to play and not a huge amount of structure to any of it,' said Cockerill.

'I thought [Andy] Forsyth and Dante Mama, who normally plays at Loughborough Students, did really well and [Alex] Lewington’s got some pace.'

Harlequins have now lost four out of their last six games and head coach John Kingston was far from pleased with his side’s performance.

'That was not to the levels that we expect and aspire to,' he said.

'Yes there’s a lot of players out there who are not playing regularly but we’re a squad and they will be aspiring to put their hand up. Several of them will be very disappointed because they don’t go out there not to perform well.

'Nobody in their right minds is going to expect a team of any sort to carry on with the start we had. We have been winning one losing one in the last few weeks against really very competitive opposition.

'We’ve got an awful lot ahead of us though and an awful lot of positive things to look forward to.'

Ulster 41 Leicester 7: Tigers crash out after Euro trashing

Ulster 41 Leicester 7: Tigers crash out after Euro thrashing

When the Ravenhill crowd delivered
their second mocking rendition of Swing Low Sweet Chariot, it
signified utter humiliation for Leicester – for so long English rugby's
standard-bearers in Europe.

This was the Tigers' worst defeat in
15 seasons of Heineken Cup rugby; 15 seasons when they have been among
the champions and prime contenders so often. The Midlands club have
never suffered quite like this before.

Try time: Ulster's Craig Gilroy celebrates

Try time: Ulster's Craig Gilroy celebrates

Their previous biggest margin of defeat was at the same ground in 2003, when Martin Johnson and Co lost 33-0 and it was the largest points total they have ever conceded – one more than the 40 Clermont Auvergne recorded two seasons ago.

At least on that occasion they put up a valiant fight, scoring 30 points of their own. This time they were simply unable to compete.

Leicester trailed by 11 points at half-time but in the final 17 minutes they conceded as many points. Richard Cockerill's team are not mathematically out of this competition, but the reality is that they have no hope of progressing to the quarter-finals and it is highly likely their demise will be sealed by results elsewhere this weekend.

'Clermont will win with a bonus point tomorrow and we'll be third in our pool so we're done,' said Cockerill. 'We struggled to get a foothold on the game tonight, Ulster controlled the ball, took their chances well and deserved to win. We didn't have dominance in any part of that game.

On the charge: Ulster's Darren Cave

On the charge: Ulster's Darren Cave

'Maybe playing four games in 18 days caught up with us and with key guys missing it was hard for us to compete but I don't want to make excuses.'

The Tigers were hampered by the absence of three England players – Toby Flood, Manu Tuilagi and Louis Deacon, and it showed. But Ulster had plenty of Test pedigree as highlighted by the exploits of Ireland wing Andrew Trimble, who touched down twice, and former Springboks scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, who kicked five penalties and three conversions.

Stefan Terblanche, the South African full back, set up the first try by counterattacking from his own 22.

Strong running by Trimble and Dan Tuohy took Ulster deep into the Leicester half and Trimble struck in the corner from close range after a Pedrie Wannenburg pass.

Hold up: Andrew Trimble of Ulster is tackled by Geordan Murphy of Leicester

Hold up: Andrew Trimble of Ulster is tackled by Geordan Murphy of Leicester

After Pienaar's first penalty, Leicester hit back with a fine try of their own. Having held steady at a scrum on the right, Billy Twelvetrees burst forward and from the ruck, Ben Youngs arced left and his long pass gave Geordan Murphy a clear run-in. Twelvetrees converted.

But that was the start and end of the revival. Pienaar landed another penalty and just before the break, Ulster surged clear when Wannenburg and Pienaar combined from a scrum to send Trimble over again in the same corner. After half-time there were three more Pienaar penalties and the Tigers' resistance unravelled as Ben Youngs sparked a scuffle by losing his temper and Dan Cole was sin-binned only moments after coming on.

With 10 minutes left, Ulster worked an overlap and Craig Gilroy streaked away to touch down. Then, as 'Swing Low' rang out, Paul Marshall ran through a huge gap to score. Leicester's defence was in ruins, as was their spirit. Pienaar made it 41-7 to confirm the Tigers' capitulation.

Toby Flood could miss start of Six Nations with knee injury

Flood could miss England's Six Nations ties with Scotland and Italy after being hit by knee injury

England's first-choice fly-half, Toby Flood, could miss the start of the Six Nations after suffering a knee injury.

Sportsmail understands the 26-year-old could be out for up to six weeks and miss the Scotland match on February 4 and the Italy game a week later.

Receiving treatment: Flood could miss the start of England's six Nations campaign

Receiving treatment: Flood could miss the start of England's six Nations campaign

Flood’s clubmate Manu Tuilagi is also out after Leicester confirmed he is likely to need another month to recover from his torn hamstring.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster has also dropped Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care after he was charged with drink-driving.

Richard Cockerill, Leicester’s director of rugby said: ‘Toby has had a bang on the knee and it’s being treated. We’ll just have to wait and see how it progresses.’

Manu Tuilagi and Chris Ashton in Six Nations fitness battles

Double blow for England as doubts grow over Tuilagi and Ashton for Six Nations

England’s Six Nations problems are already starting to mount due to Manu Tuilagi’s torn hamstring and the growing row at Northampton over the intentions of Chris Ashton.

Tuilagi needs a further scan before Leicester know when the centre will play again, while Northampton continue to prepare for life next season without England’s star wing.

Leicester hope Tuilagi will be fit to face Ulster in a key Heineken Cup pool match on January 13, but head coach Richard Cockerill admitted the injury will keep the 20-year-old on the sidelines for weeks rather than days.

Hamstrung: Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi

Hamstrung: Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi

Northampton’s director of rugby Jim Mallinder has issued a different kind of warning about Ashton, saying the wing will have to fight for his place when he returns next week from a month-long ban for pulling the hair of Tuilagi’s elder brother, Alesana, in a vicious Premiership match at Leicester last month.

Mallinder is becoming increasingly frustrated at Ashton’s refusal to negotiate a new deal while strong speculation points to him joining Saracens on a big-money contract from September.

Ashton is free to play in Northampton’s high-profile Premiership match against Harlequins, but Mallinder might yet prefer in-form Jamie Elliott or Vasily Artemyev.

‘Chris is due back, but after a month out of action he will have to fight hard to regain his starting place, we have a number of wings who have been in good form,’ said Mallinder.

Out of practice: Ashton is currently banned and may struggle to get back in the Northampton side

Out of practice: Ashton is currently banned and may struggle to get back in the Northampton side

If Ashton does not play against Quins he would have only two Heineken Cup pool games to prove his fitness and form before England start preparations for the Six Nations opener against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 4.

Mallinder stressed Northampton wanted to talk to Ashton about his future but added: ‘His mind is in another place at the moment. We want him as a player, but only if he wants to be with us. It would have been nice to have talked properly with him and his agent to see where we are, but they don’t seem to want to do that. We are interpreting that lack of communication as them looking at other options.’

Leicester will also be without England lock Louis Deacon for the New Year’s Day visit of Sale to Welford Road. Deacon also tore a hamstring in Tuesday’s win at Worcester just minutes after Tuilagi was injured.

Headache: England interim coaching team (led by Stuart Lancaster, centre) may have to do without two of their key men

Headache: England interim coaching team (led by Stuart Lancaster, centre) may have to do without two of their key men

Cockerill said: ‘They both need further scans and will know more then. It’s a bit early in the timeframe to say how long they will be out. But they won’t be short-term injuries – they will be weeks rather than days.’

Leicester’s England Under 20 fly-half George Ford is to join Championship club Leeds on a short-term loan.

The 18-year-old, who was the IRB’s junior player of the year following his success for England last summer, will feature in Leeds’ match at home to London Scottish on Sunday.

Bath are considering giving a debut to rugby league international Kyle Eastmond on Sunday when London Irish visit the Rec. The 22-year-old has not played because of a groin problem since leaving St Helens in the autumn.

Luis Suarez race row: When the FA get tough…

When the FA get tough… just ask Cantona, Davis, Sinclair and Di Canio

Although often heavily criticised, football’s governing body has not been afraid to throw the book at offenders in the past…

Billy Cook (Oldham, 1915)

Received a 12-month ban for refusing to leave the field after he was dismissed when playing at Middlesbrough. The match had to be abandoned with 35 minutes to go.

Eric Cantona (Manchester Utd, 1995)

Banned for eight months and fined 10,000 by the Football Association for attacking a spectator after being sent off against Crystal Palace.

Kung-fu King: Eric Cantona was suspended for eight months after he hurled himself into the crowd at Crystal Palace

Kung-fu King: Eric Cantona was suspended for eight months after he hurled himself into the crowd at Crystal Palace”s Selhurst Park

Frank Barson (Watford, 1928)

Banned for seven months after being sent off against Fulham for kicking an opponent. A 5,000-strong petition in his defence could not save him.

Paul Davis (Arsenal, 1988)

Suspended for nine matches, and fined a then record 3,000 for breaking the jaw of Glenn Cockerill.

Pushing his luck: Paolo di Canio infamously floored referee Paul Alcock

Pushing his luck: Paolo di Canio infamously floored referee Paul Alcock

Paolo Di Canio (Sheffield Wed, 1998)

Received 11-match ban from the Football Association, including a statutory three matches for being sentoff during home match against Arsenal, after which he shoved referee Paul Alcock to the ground. He was also fined 10,000.

Frank Sinclair (Chelsea/Wba; 1992)

Nine-match ban and 600 fine after found guilty of assaulting referee Paul Alcock when on loan to West Brom.

Mark Dennis (QPR, 1987)

Sent off 11 times in his career and answered two disrepute charges concerning newspaper articles. Suspended for 53 days; amended on appeal to eight games.

Alan Gough (Gillingham, 1993)

Goalkeeper who was suspended for 42 days after assaulting a referee.

Dean Windass (Aberdeen, 1997)

The striker was effectively sent off three times in the opening half of the 5-0 defeat at Dundee United. The SFA gave him a six-match ban after being dismissed for two bookable offences, abusing the referee and ripping a corner flag up and throwing it into the ground on his way off.