England will find out on Monday whether they face a full-blown back-row injury crisis for their crucial final test against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Eddie Jones’ tourists kept the streak alive with a 25-17 win in Brisbane, but in a hard-fought contest, Mara Itohe and Sam Underhill left the field after suffering concussion in heavy clashes.

Itohe was ruled out of Saturday’s decider and a clearer picture of Underhill, who has had concussions including this season, will emerge on Monday.

In addition, doctors are assessing the rib injury that forced Jack Willis off the bench for the second Test and he could also be reduced to a spectator role.

It comes after Tom Curry returned home last week with an injury in the opening match in Perth and potentially leaves Lewis Ludlam and Courtney Lawes as the team’s only full-backs.

Nick Isikwe can fill that role, but primarily in the second row, where resources are also stretched with the unavailability of Itoje and Charlie Ewells leaving the tour in the first week with a knee problem.

Jones did consider calling up London Irish’s Tom Pearson when the extent of Currie’s head injury became known, but so far he has kept faith with his original touring squad and is unlikely to call up a replacement at this late stage.

Jack Willis is in danger of missing the final Test with a rib injury (Mike Egerton/Pennsylvania)

(PA Wire)

“I don’t think there will be a need for that, from what I can gather at this point,” Jones said.

England returned to swagger when they left Brisbane for Sydney on Sunday, and while management conducts a back-row roll call, the squad will be rebuilding depleted energy reserves in the ocean basin.

“We needed to refresh the players because it was a tough game. We’re at Coogee Beach, which is the best place in the world to cool off,” Jones said.

“On Monday we are at Wylie’s Baths, which used to be the old rugby league venue. They would drink on the weekend and then make out at Wiley’s baths on Monday.

“I just hope we don’t have rugby league behaviour! We are public school rugby players, well behaved. We will recover well on Monday and return to training on Tuesday and Wednesday.”

Australia were blasted in front in the first half of a compelling clash on Saturday, but they battled back from a 17-0 deficit to 22-17 only for the momentum to stall amid a series of errors.

As well as their early dominance, England could also take pleasure in the determination shown in the face of Wallabies resistance.

“It was a game under pressure. We got into a situation where we got out early, but they came back,” Jones said.

“The game was always going to be close and we had to direct hard to keep our composure and keep finding a way to go forward.

“It was a good dress rehearsal for the World Cup semi-final because this game felt like a World Cup semi-final.

“Now Australia will work hard. What will they do next week? They’re going to be doing maul defense and scrum defense and they’re going to be improved, so we’ve got to find a way to get better.”


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