Six Nations 2018: Eddie Jones changes training schedule for injury-hit England squad

England rugby
England are currently on a training camp in Portugal ahead of their Six Nations opener against Italy

England's training schedule ahead of the Six Nations has been "changed considerably" to try to freshen up a fatigued and injury-hit squad.

Eddie Jones' side are currently training in Portugal, with a number of players nursing injuries following two bruising European weekends.

"We've done a mini pre-season, they won't start rugby until Thursday," said England head coach Jones.

"It's in the hope it makes the players a bit fresher."

Jones added: "It's how they respond [to the fatigue], and the mental part of the game is important."

England face Italy in Rome on Sunday, 4 February in their Six Nations opener.

There are doubts over a number of players' fitness for the game, while centre Henry Slade [shoulder] and prop Kyle Sinckler [hamstring] have both been ruled out.

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We'll be physical and brutal in Italy - Jones

"Slade looks like it is three or four weeks [out], Sinckler maybe six to eight - they are still looking at," Jones told BBC 5 live.

Full-Back Mike Brown, with an eye injury, and flanker Chris Robshaw, with a back complaint, also face a race against time to be fit for the clash with the Azzurri.

"We think they will both be alright - Robshaw might be a bit more touch and go," added the England boss.

With Robshaw and Maro Itoje nursing niggles, England have been left with only a handful of rookie back-row forwards left standing in camp.

"I was watching the back-rowers train yesterday. We had four back-rowers train: Gary Graham, Sam Simmonds, Zach Mercer and Nick Isiekwe," Jones explained.

"The most capped players out of those guys is Nick Isiekwe - he's 19. He's failed his driving test five times. So he can't even drive anywhere, and he's our most experienced player.

"Hopefully we will get [Robshaw] back on the field, but it's a great opportunity for us to grow the team."

Meanwhile Exeter wing Jack Nowell is still "three to four weeks" away from a return from an ongoing ankle issue.

England's injury list
Forwards: Tom Curry, Charlie Ewels, Ellis Genge, Nathan Hughes, Matt Mullan, Beno Obano, Kyle Sinckler, Will Spencer, Chris Robshaw, Billy Vunipola.
Backs: Mike Brown, Elliot Daly, Piers Francis, Jack Nowell, Semesa Rokoduguni, Henry Slade. (Ben Te'o is returning to fitness with England but has not played since October)

Hear from Eddie Jones and a host of Six Nations coaches and captains on the Rugby Union Weekly Six Nations special, 5 live Sport on Thursday at 2030.

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