Saracens completed a memorable European and domestic double after retaining the Premiership title by beating Exeter 37-34 at TwickenhamRead the full story ›
Dylan Hartley must stake his claim for a place in England's World Cup squad without playing since mid-December after he was ruled out of Northampton's clash with Exeter on Saturday.
Saints hoped the 33-year-old hooker would recover from his knee injury in time for the Gallagher Premiership play-off at Sandy Park but director of rugby Chris Boyd revealed on Thursday that he has failed to recover in time.
As one of Eddie Jones' co-captains until injury struck, Hartley is certain to be picked in the wider World Cup training squad but he must prove he is worth a place at Japan 2019 despite more than six months out.
"Dylan won't be ready to play," Boyd told Press Association Sport.
"If there was no rugby to come in the next six months we might roll him out and see if he can get through it.
"But in such a crucial game and not having played since Christmas he's got some other stuff to get his head around so we've decided he's just not quite ready.
"If we had to roll him out for 20 minutes he could do that and get away with it, although how he'd be on Monday I'm not sure.
"I know that if he'd had to get through 75 minutes last week against Exeter last week when Reece Marshall went down with injury, he might have been in a wheelchair this morning.
"His time will come when he's ready. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, maybe we should have, or he should have, collectively, gone for the surgical option.
"We tried for rehab and it was unsuccessful so it hasn't been plain sailing for him. There have been a few false starts but you can't predict those things."
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Mako Vunipola will miss the climax to Saracens' pursuit of the double after being ruled of the rest of the season by a significant hamstring injury.
Vunipola lasted just half an hour of the Champions Cup final victory over Leinster on Saturday before being forced off alongside fellow prop Titi Lamositele, who will also miss the Gallagher Premiership title push.
A date for Vunipola's return has yet to be confirmed, but Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall insists the British and Irish loosehead will be available for England's World Cup campaign.
"Mako has a torn hamstring. We're waiting to see exactly what happens with that, but I very much doubt he'll play again this season. Nether will Titi," McCall said.
"Mako won't be out of the World Cup, but he'll be out for a while. It's quite a significant injury.
"It's disappointing to lose two players of that quality and it makes us a little bit vulnerable."
Vunipola, who is considered the game's standout loosehead, missed a large chunk of the Six Nations with an ankle injury and then suffered another injury to the same joint that resulted in an aborted comeback.
The showdown with Leinster in Newcastle was only his second match since the Championship rout of France in mid-February.
Leicester have confirmed the players who will leave Welford Road at the end of this season.
Tigers had already announced the retirements of Mat Tait and Matt Smith, in addition to Matt Toomua being released to join Melbourne Rebels.
That was in addition to Graham Kitchener, Mike Williams and Will Evans joining Worcester, Bath and Harlequins, respectively, next term.
Leicester have now announced that Brendon O'Connor, Valentino Mapapalangi, Joe Ford, Fred Tuilagi and Charlie Thacker will also depart, while Gareth Owen is joining Newcastle and Mike Fitzgerald heading to Japanese team the Kamaishi Seawaves.
Campese Ma'afu, David Feao and Ross McMillan will exit after one year at the club, and mid-season arrivals Leonardo Sarto and Clayton Blommetjies, who joined Tigers as injury cover, also leave after Saturday's Gallagher Premiership game against Bath.
"We have a mixed bag of experience leaving us this season, who have all given their all during their time in the Tigers shirt," Leicester head coach Geordan Murphy told the club's official website.
"I wish all of them the best in their next chapters, whether it be as players or life after rugby."
Leicester have been consigned to a bottom-three finish in the Premiership, and they cannot qualify for next season's Heineken Champions Cup.
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has included the uncapped trio Rory Hutchinson, Grant Stewart and Blade Thomson in his 42-man pre-World Cup training squad.
Northampton centre Hutchinson has had a breakthrough year for the Gallagher Premiership outfit and will now get the chance to book a seat to this year's finals in Japan.
Scarlets back-rower Thomson was due to make his Scotland bow during last year's autumn Tests but was ruled out through injury and has only recently returned to full fitness, while hooker Stewart has impressed for Glasgow over the past 12 months.
Townsend is keeping a further two spaces open to allow a number of players - including the likes of Richie Gray, Duncan Weir and Alex Dunbar, who were all overlooked - operating at the business end of the season to play their way into the group.
Guinness PRO14 title-chasers Glasgow contribute the most players to the training squad with 17, while Edinburgh provide 13 and clubs outside Scotland offer 12.
"Today's selection is a good indication of the depth and level of competition we currently have in Scotland," said Townsend.
"We made a conscious decision to keep squad numbers low, which enables us to do more work with those most likely to be on the plane to Japan.
"We're really excited to work with this group of players who will now compete hard for a place in the final 31-man group going to the World Cup.
"There are of course a number of very good players who have missed out - players who have been unlucky with injuries this year or haven't hit form at the right time - while others are unlucky to lose out on some very close decisions."
The majority of Townsend's squad will then be given three weeks off after the climax to the club season and will return from mid-June to intensify their preparations at Oriam, Scotland's National Sports Performance Centre, on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
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