Eddie Jones’ plans for the Six Nations have been dealt a blow by skills coach Jason Ryles being unable to travel from Australia to join up with the camp.
Now the UK government has decided apply strict travel restrictions to new arrivals in the country, Ryles and his family would be required to quarantine for ten days.
England head coach Jones will announce his 28-man squad for the Six Nations on Friday ahead of a training camp at St George’s Park next week.
But the team’s defence of their title will be without the services of Ryles, who took on the role as an assistant coach last autumn after a distinguished career in the NRL.
The RFU said in a statement: “Due to the current Covid-19 lockdown, coach Jason Ryles and his family have chosen not to relocate to England this month as they had originally planned. It is hoped Jason will rejoin the coaching team for England’s summer fixtures.”
The pandemic is making long-term planning difficult. The British & Irish Lions board will meet next week to decide not just whether the summer tour to South Africa will go ahead but where it will be played with the British Isles looking the most likely destination despite the objection of supporters.
The lack of a vaccination programme in South Africa, which has been badly hit by a second wave of the virus, and the greater likelihood of crowds being allowed back into grounds in Britain and Ireland by July has led SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus to stress the tour, however it may look, must take place.
“We desperately want to play the Lions and will do anything to play them,” said Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby’s director of rugby. “This series only comes around every 12 years and if option A of playing in South Africa does not work out, we will go to option Z to make it happen.
“I have heard the different calls and opinions about the tour but we do not want to lose out on playing the series. Although we did not play in the Rugby Championship [last autumn] because of player welfare, it was also because we knew there was this big series in 2021.”
South Africa have not played since they defeated England in the 2019 RUgby World Cup final when Erasmus was head coach, passing over the reins to his former defence coach Jacques Nienaber.
Erasmus revealed he had recently contracted the virus and said: “The frustration at not playing has been unbelievable, but we cannot compare that to the devastating impact of the pandemic and how people have suffered. We will explore any option to play the Lions whether next year or over there.”