ARGENTINA will be without one of their most influential players for their European Tour opener against Scotland at BT Murrayfield next month after Juan Fernandez Lobbe was ruled out of the trip due to an injury.
The veteran back row forward, 32, sustained a thigh injury playing for Toulon against Ulster in the European Champions Cup. He was replaced in coach Daniel Hourcade’s Pumas squad by flanker Javier Ortega Desio of Argentine side Estudiantes de Parana.
Ortega Desio, 24, played his first test against Ireland in June and made his Rugby Championship debut in the Pumas team that achieved Argentina’s first victory in the southern hemisphere tournament against Australia in Mendoza on 4 October.
Argentina face Scotland in Edinburgh on Saturday, 8 November, before heading to Genoa to play Italy a week later and France in Paris on 22 November.
Scotland have set up a training camp in Newcastle this week as they prepare for the game, with Vern Cotter expected to announce a new captain for the forthcoming Tests against Argentina, New Zealand and Tonga soon, following the withdrawal of his first-choice Grant Gilchrist, who broke his forearm playing for Edinburgh.
England also have injury problems and suffered another blow yesterday when head coach Stuart Lancaster confirmed that centre Luther Burrell is unlikely to be fit for the forthcoming Test against New Zealand after sustaining a hand injury.
Northampton centre Burrell suffered an injury to his right hand during his side’s European Champions Cup victory over the Ospreys last weekend and will see a specialist ahead of New Zealand’s visit to Twickenham on 8 November.
“I think it would be tight for New Zealand, if I’m being honest,” Lancaster said. “He’s not been in camp this week at all.
“He’s seeing the specialist and it will probably unfold over the weekend.
“He’s still in the equation further down the line. He’s definitely not out of the series. We’ll see how he goes.
“If the specialist is positive, then potentially he could come back into camp next week, but he won’t have done any of the work. It would be a big step to put him in [against New Zealand].” Burrell, who has seven international caps, is joined on the sidelines by fellow centre Manu Tuilagi, who will miss the November internationals with a groin injury.
Prop Joe Marler, No 8 Billy Vunipola, centre Kyle Eastmond and winger Marland Yarde are also nursing injuries, but back row James Haskell and Bath prop David Wilson have returned to light training.
“It’s always a tough start to the season for players, particularly when they go six rounds of the Premiership and then two rounds of Europe,” Lancaster said.
With Lancaster sweating over his injury-hit squad, Premiership side Saracens took a subtle dig at his decision to overlook wingers Chris Ashton and David Strettle for the November fixtures.
Ashton has scored 24 tries in 34 Premiership and European matches for Saracens since the start of last season, while Strettle has scored 20 tries in 35 matches over the same period.
“Chris and David have been consistently outstanding over the past 18 months,” Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall told the club’s website, adding: “The try-scoring stats speak for themselves, but they do so much more than finish brilliantly – their all-round game, their work rate and their commitment has been exceptional.