England captain Hartley a doubt for France Six Nations clash


London (AFP)

Captain Dylan Hartley is a doubt for England's Six Nations clash with France, while Jack Nowell and Sam Underhill were Tuesday ruled out of the trip to Paris.

Defending champions England are second in the table after a shock 25-13 defeat to Scotland late last month, with Grand Slam-chasing Ireland favourites to win the tournament.

Forwards coach Steve Borthwick said Hartley was struggling with muscle tightness in his leg while Nowell (ankle) and Underhill (toe) sustained injuries in training.

Hartley, 31, is being monitored closely ahead of Thursday's team announcement, with Jamie George poised to start if he fails to recover and Owen Farrell the likely skipper.

The Northampton hooker is joined as a possible absentee for the penultimate round of the Six Nations by replacement tighthead prop Harry Williams, who is struggling with a neck injury.

"Dylan and Harry will be monitored on a daily basis and we'll see how that progresses," said Borthwick.

"Dylan trained yesterday and felt a bit of tightness afterwards. He reported that and the decision of the medical team is to monitor it daily.

"It's meant that Luke Cowan-Dickie was called up to the squad yesterday and trained fully this morning as cover.

"We have the two hookers in Dylan and Jamie and we need the third hooker as cover. And Kyle Sinckler is here as a tighthead prop as well as those are specialist positions so you need specialist cover."

Wing Nowell, 24, is also likely to miss the climax to the tournament against Ireland on March 17 but Underhill, 21, could be back for the crunch match at Twickenham.

Underhill's place on the bench is likely to be filled by James Haskell while Elliot Daly, who has recovered from ankle and calf problems, plugs the gap created by Nowell's injury

England coach Eddie Jones has said he will consider selecting a team designed specifically to topple France after warning his players that none of them are indispensable.

Rain has been forecast for the Stade de France on Saturday, prompting Jones to predict a "slogathon" against heavyweight opponents.

The Australian said the defeat against Scotland -- only his second in 26 matches as England coach -- still rankles but the side can use it as a springboard.

"You don't win 24 out of 26 games by doing a lot of things wrong," he said. "We do a lot of things right but we just went off course a little bit. We need to just put the ship back on course."

France coach Jacques Brunel has told AFP that England are red-hot favourites to win in Paris, but if his struggling team can pull off a shock victory it would be a "significant advance".