England manager Martin Johnson said he was confident Nick Easter would be fit to continue at the RWC as the number eight battled to overcome a back injury.
The Harlequins loose forward withdrew shortly before last week’s 41-10 win over Georgia and has now been ruled out of England’s Pool B clash against Romania on Saturday, with James Haskell continuing in Easter’s place.
England prop Matt Stevens is also currently sidelined with a sprained ankle.
“Nick’s progressing, Matt Stevens is progressing so, not to tempt fate, we’re in a pretty good place. We’ll see where we are after Saturday,” said Johnson.
“Hopefully, we’re in a good position and nothing crops up in the game. Nick’s not had this injury before, it’s just one of those where we’re hoping he’s going to be good to go next week but we’ll see how it goes.”
England have summoned New Zealand-born Thomas Waldrom, who was in their preliminary squad, as precautionary cover for Easter.
“That’s why we had guys in through camp, Thomas was in, learning what we do so if the situation arises he can put himself in contention pretty quickly,” Johnson said.
“I think Nick will be ok. He’s desperate to get back and play but we’ll see how it progresses over the next 48 hours.
“They (the medical staff) can’t often give you a precise date. I wish they could. It would make life a lot easier.”
Johnson, however, was happy with the way Haskell had covered for Easter.
“He came in last week for us at short notice and he’s done very well,” he said.
“He’s keen to improve and when he’s been in the team, he’s often covering multiple positions depending on who we have on the bench.”
England have yet to decide on a replacement for prop Andrew Sheridan, whose World Cup was cut short by a shoulder injury, and Johnson is not obliged to make a like-for-like substitution.
“We’ve got Thomas here and he could replace Andrew Sheridan. We could keep Nick and Thomas in, or we hedge our bets slightly,” added Johnson, England’s 2003 World Cup-winning captain.
“We’ll see where we are Saturday and make that call. Hopefully, everyone’s healthy to train Monday in Auckland.”
Although England have won their previous Pool matches, against Argentina and Georgia, they’ve conceded multiple penalties in both fixtures.
Johnson said he would be happy with fewer tries than the six England managed against Georgia if they produced an improved performance in their third, and final match this tournament, at Dunedin’s indoor Otago Stadium.
“You can say it any number of ways, but we’ve got to play a lot better,” former lock Johnson insisted.
“We scored six tries last week but I’d happier if we played a lot better and scored three or four rather than six.”