Manu Tuilagi’s latest England comeback has been aborted after the Leicester centre suffered a minor groin strain in training.
Tuilagi has been withdrawn from the bench for Saturday’s autumn series opener against South Africa and is replaced by wing Chris Ashton, who narrowly missed the cut for the original matchday 23.
It is the latest misfortune in an injury-ravaged career that has limited the 27-year-old to one replacement appearance since 2014, when he made his most recent start.
“Manu seems in high enough spirits. It’s nothing too serious,” co-captain Owen Farrell said
“With his history it’s not be risked, but I’m sure he’ll be back in the next couple of weeks.
“There are enough people on the field to have played centre and I can move there if things crop up.”
England scrum coach Neal Hatley insisted he should be ready to face the All Blacks, adding that “if tomorrow was a World Cup final then we probably would have kept him in”.
Ashton will win his 40th cap from the bench to end his four-year international exile after falling out of favour with successive England coaches, incurring a series of long-term bans and spending a successful season at Toulon.
The dual code wing joined Sale over the summer, however, to make him available for selection by Eddie Jones.
“He made a huge call to come back after discussion with Eddie. He wants to be involved in the World Cup and has been brilliant in training.
“He brings good energy and enthusiasm. He’s one of the best support line runners who scores tries wherever he goes.”
The starting XV remains unchanged with co-captain Farrell directing operations at fly-half and Ben Te’o present at inside centre despite being limited to 28 minutes of rugby since May because of thigh and calf injuries.
“For me playing fly-half is similar to playing centre. Picking another fly-half at 12 doesn’t mean he turns into a different player overnight. I was still myself.”
England fell to a 2-1 series defeat to South Africa in June and face a strong Springboks line-up containing the likes of Duane Vermeulen, Malcolm Marx and Eben Etzebeth.
“We need to make sure we pitch up in the right state because it’ll a hell of a battle up front. We’ve got to be ready for everything. We’ve got so much talent in this team,” Farrell said.