England cannot put an exact timeframe on when Jack Nowell will return to fitness, casting his World Cup availability into doubt.
England boss Eddie Jones names his 31-man squad for the tournament on Monday and Nowell would be extremely likely to be selected as part of a probable group of five back-three players, if he proves his fitness.
However, the Exeter wing, 26, is still recovering from the ankle injury he sustained during the Gallagher Premiership final against Saracens in early June, and despite a surgical review last week, England are unsure when he will return.
Assistant coach Neal Hatley said: “Jack is progressing. He went back to his club and we’re hoping he’ll be ready to be an option.
“The review with him will be ongoing, it is week-by-week. He’s a good healer so we’ll see where we get to with him.
“He is working extremely hard from a rehab point of view and we will make a decision on it closer to the time.”
Nowell, who has won 33 caps since making his debut in 2014, was sent home from England’s training camp in Italy last week to be assessed by Exeter, but England Rugby announced on Tuesday he would continue his rehabilitation in camp.
Influential loosehead prop Mako Vunipola is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a hamstring issue and fellow wing Anthony Watson insists he feels better than ever after his injury woes – but flanker Brad Shields is another doubt, with a foot problem taking around three weeks to heal.
Nowell, who has won 33 caps since making his debut in 2014, was sent home from England’s training camp in Italy last week to be assessed by Exeter, but England announced yesterday he would continue rehabilitation in camp.
England play their first of four warm-up fixtures against old foes Wales at Twickenham on Saturday, with Nowell almost certainly not playing, and Jones is set to finalise his World Cup squad the day after the match.
Hatley later underlined the game would be anything but ‘friendly’.
“No, never. It’s a Test match at Twickenham so the rivalry doesn’t take a back seat. It’s preparation and we want to see where we are, but it’s a Test match,” he added.