England have called up Richard Wigglesworth to replace the injured Ben Youngs for Saturday’s NatWest 6 Nations clash with Wales.
Youngs suffered knee ligament damage in the seven-try rout of Italy on Sunday and will miss at least the Twickenham showdown with Warren Gatland’s men and possibly the entire tournament.
The Leicester scrum-half’s name was missing from the 32 summoned to England’s Surrey training base, confirming Wigglesworth will provide cover for Danny Care as a replacement against Wales.
A scan undertaken on Monday afternoon will determine Youngs’ fate and it is also an important week for Nathan Hughes, who is to be assessed by medics to see whether he will play any role in this Six Nations.
His participation is threatened by a knee injury sustained in December, although the Fiji-born number eight was expected to be back for the latter rounds.
The absence of Billy Vunipola, who will sit out the entire Championship with his own knee problem, will mean Hughes’ availability would be a substantial boost, even if Sam Simmonds demonstrated in Rome that he is an exciting alternative.
Care hopes Youngs’ misfortune will enable him to become England’s most capped scrum-half as a starter.
“You never want to see a bad injury like that and I was gutted to see Ben in so much pain,” Care said.
“First things first, he’s a good mate as well as a competitor for the shirt. He’s in pain and all our thoughts are with him.
“Hopefully the scan will bring good news and all the boys are thinking of him.
“It would be great to get into the number nine shirt for the Wales game having had 70 minutes under my belt, which is great because I love being out there with the boys.”
For the majority of his reign, and even when naming a wider squad, Eddie Jones has relied on only two scrum-halves in Youngs and Care so for the first time he has revealed his third choice in the position.
Wigglesworth won the last of his 27 caps during the 2015 World Cup but the 34-year-old Saracen is an outstanding game manager with a strong kicking game.
England will face Wales buoyed by their victory over a competitive but outclassed Azzurri that saw Anthony Watson and Simmonds cross twice each in a successful start to their title defence.
The Welsh are also brimming with confidence, however, after overcoming the loss of a host of British and Irish Lions to crush Scotland 34-7 and ramp up expectations for their visit to Twickenham.
“Hopefully we can hit the ground running from where we left off against Italy,” Care said.
“The Welsh game was very entertaining and we cannot wait to get back to our home patch at Twickenham and welcome them with open arms.”