England winger Chris Ashton will miss Saturday’s Six Nations match against Wales due to a minor calf injury.
It is understood that Ashton’s calf tightened up during training at the squad’s three-day camp in London, resulting in his omission from the 33-man squad named to step-up preparations for Wales.
Ashton started last Sunday’s game against France at Twickenham and played 51 minutes of England’s 44-8 victory.
He was replaced by Jack Nowell, who impressed when he started the first game of the tournament in Ireland, and the Exeter Chief will now be favourite to fill the vacancy created by Ashton’s absence in Cardiff next weekend.
The Rugby Football Union revealed in a statement that dual code international Ashton has a minor calf strain and will receive treatment at his club Sale Sharks.
He is expected to recover in time for Italy’s visit to Twickenham in the penultimate round of the Six Nations on March 9.
Bath winger Joe Cokanasiga is another option for head coach Eddie Jones to replace Ashton at the Principality Stadium, while uncapped Gloucester winger Ollie Thorley has been included in the 33-man squad.
Cokanasiga continued his comeback from knee ligament damage with a try-scoring performance in Bath’s victory over Newcastle on Saturday.
It was the powerful wing’s first outing for over two months and – having proved his fitness – he is firmly in contention for a role next weekend.
England and Wales have both won their first two matches of the Six Nations, meaning Saturday’s game will be pivotal in this year’s tournament.
The remote prospect of Maro Itoje returning to the England line-up in Cardiff has vanished, after the Saracens lock was excluded from the extended squad that assembled at England’s Surrey training base on Sunday.
Itoje suffered a knee injury against Ireland and will continue receiving treatment with a view to facing Italy.
England’s 33-man squad:
Forwards – Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks), Ben Earl (Saracens), Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby), Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers), Jamie George (Saracens), Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs), Nathan Hughes (Wasps), George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Ben Moon (Exeter Chiefs), Brad Shields (Wasps), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Jack Singleton (Worcester Warriors), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs), Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons)
Backs – Mike Brown (Harlequins), Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Ollie Devoto (Exeter Chiefs), Owen Farrell (Saracens, captain), George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Jonny May (Leicester Tigers), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Dan Robson (Wasps), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors), Ollie Thorley (Gloucester Rugby), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
(c) Sky News 2019: Chris Ashton ruled out of Wales vs England Six Nations showdown