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Rugby | Six Nations

Chris Ashton © Backpagepix

England wing Ashton out of key Wales clash

England wing Chris Ashton will miss the potentially title-deciding Six Nations clash away to Wales because of a calf injury, the Rugby Football Union announced on Sunday.

Ashton started last week's 44-8 win over France at Twickenham and played 51 minutes before he was replaced by Jack Nowell, now the favourite to fill the gap in England coach Eddie Jones's run-on XV at Cardiff's Principality Stadium on Saturday.

The RFU said Ashton would not join up with the test squad because of a "minor calf strain", but he is expected to be fit for England's penultimate match of the Championship, at home to Italy on March 9.

Sale star Ashton is understood to have experienced tightness in his calf during the England squad's three-day training camp in London this week, which led to this omission from the 33-strong group announced by Jones on Sunday.

Yet even though the 31-year-old has scored 20 tries in just 44 tests, such is England's strength in depth at wing they should be able to cope with Ashton's absence in Cardiff.

Nowell is in line to start on the right wing and so reclaim the jersey he lost to Ashton against France, despite impressing in a win over Six Nations champions Ireland in Dublin a week earlier.

Meanwhile powerhouse wing Joe Cokanasiga, included in Jones's 33, continued his comeback from knee ligament damage with a try during Bath's win over Newcastle in the English Premiership on Saturday.

It was the 21-year-old Cokanasiga's first competitive outing in more than two months and he could now feature against Wales, most likely in the role of an impact substitute – or "finisher" as Jones likes to call them – off the bench.

Both England and Wales, who have each won their opening two Six Nations matches this season, are due to announce their teams on Thursday.


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