England “expect” Jack Nowell to be available as a member of a fully fit squad for their World Cup semi-final against New Zealand in Yokohama on Saturday following his hamstring injury.

Wing star Nowell was not involved in the England matchday 23 that overwhelmed Australia 40-16 during a dominant quarter-final win.

Last weekend, Jonny May and Anthony Watson, who between them scored three tries, were the starting wings against the Wallabies at Oita Stadium.

Towards the end of that match May, who marked his 50th cap with two tries in three first-half minutes, went off with what head coach Eddie Jones said was a “twinge.”

“[But] is bouncing around this morning. He has a small twinge and we’ll assess where he is a little bit later,” Neal Hatley, the England scrum coach, told the media at the squad’s hotel in Beppu. “[As for May], he has a small twinge and we’ll assess where he is a little bit later today.

‘Fantastic’

“He’s in really good spirits, moving well and we expect Jack to be fit for selection as well. It’s fantastic where we are, all 31 [players in the squad] being available for selection at the end of the week,” he added.

Meanwhile, England have also been encouraged by the form of Mako Vunipola following the prop’s return from a hamstring injury.

The Saracens front row had been limited to just 17 minutes of competitive rugby since May 11 until he came on as a replacement during the pool win against Argentina.

But that did not stop Jones fielding him in his starting XV against Australia.

Vunipola responded with an all-action display that featuring 18 tackles, solid work at the scrum and carries in open play.

“We were unbelievably impressed by Mako. He continues to go from strength to strength,” Hatley said. “And he needs to because Ellis Genge and Joe Marler have been ferocious in training and everyone’s putting the pressure on.

“Without sounding massively blase about it, I wasn’t surprised at the performance he turned in, but I can understand why people outside of our group would look at it and go ‘that’s a hell of a performance’,” he added.

Champions

New Zealand, the reigning champions, advanced into the last four courtesy of a 46-14 demolition of Ireland.

“I think they are dangerous from all over the pitch. Good set-piece, I thought they defended really well and they took their chances – they are clinical when they get opportunities,” Hatley said of the All Blacks.

England lost narrowly, 16-15, when they last played New Zealand, at Twickenham in November 2018, with flanker Sam Underhill having a try disallowed for a disputed offside call involving Courtney Lawes.

“[But] I don’t think we can take a lot from what happened in autumn. They were missing a few [players], we were missing a few and I think both sides have improved since then and it’s a whole different situation,” Hartley said.

“We will look to get better again this week, individually and as a group, and then give it everything on Saturday.”

– AFP