England could be without front-line stars for Six Nations finale in Italy

England could be without a host of front line stars for their rearranged Six Nations decider against Italy.

Eddie Jones’ World Cup finalists lead the table on points difference from France with just a trip to the winless Azzurri standing between them and glory.

But the match, in Rome on October 31, comes a week after the Premiership Final for which, it has been confirmed, the clubs will keep their Test stars.

Head coach Jones likes to prepare his squad for a fortnight before campaigns but in this instance will have his ‘finalists’ for only a week.

As things stand Exeter lead the table ahead of Sale. A Chiefs-Sharks final would involved Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Tom Curry, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jack Nowell.

Exeter scrum-half Jack Maunder insists his table-topping club have no concerns about restarting rugby during the pandemic.

The England squad scrum-half spoke after Premiership chiefs warned clubs would be fined or deducted points – or have individual players banned – for breaches of coronavirus rules.

Maunder said: “The measures that we’re taking at the club are extremely rigorous and we feel super safe.

“Obviously there are guidelines in place that you have to stick to. But I wouldn’t say there’s any nervousness. Everyone is itching to get back involved.”

Chiefs, finalists for the last four years and winners in 2017, lead the league by five points with nine of the 22 regular season rounds still to play.

“We know we haven’t achieved anything yet,” said Maunder. “Being top of the table doesn’t really mean anything unless you win the final.

“But there’s real excitement in training, an added edge. The speed of the sessions are higher. The boys are pushing themselves more and more.”

Premiership bosses last night criticised World Rugby’s “unilateral decision” to stage extra Test matches in December.

Jack Maunder was speaking on behalf of Gallagher’s Rugby Club of the Season competition, in which his local Devon club Kingsbridge RFC are finalists. Find out more at ajg.com/uk/news-and-insights/2020/january/gallagher-rugby-club-competition

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