England prop Joe Marler has been ruled out of Harlequins’ Investec Champions Cup clash against Cardiff as his arm injury continues to be assessed.

It comes amid front-row concerns for England head coach Steve Borthwick ahead of the Guinness Six Nations.

Marler’s fellow loosehead props Ellis Genge, Bevan Rodd, Mako Vunipola and Val Rapava-Ruskin are also on the sidelines.

Borthwick’s problems include a four-match ban being imposed on Saracens’ Vunipola, who was sent off for a dangerous tackle against Premiership opponents Newcastle.

Although he will be available if required for the Six Nations, experienced campaigner Vunipola cannot play again until after Saracens’ Premiership appointment with Exeter, which is only a week before England’s Six Nations opener against Italy on February 3.

Genge, an England captaincy contender following Owen Farrell’s decision to miss the Six Nations, last featured for his club Bristol on December 2. He has been sidelined due to a hamstring injury.

Sale forward Rodd is out for the rest of this season after undergoing toe surgery and Gloucester’s Rapava-Ruskin, who was part of England’s World Cup training squad last year, is another long-term absentee following a knee operation.

On the 88-cap Marler, who was hurt during Quins’ victory over Gloucester 10 days ago, the club’s head coach Danny Wilson said: “There is still a little bit of assessment going on.

“Joe is a week-by-week process at the moment to make a full assessment of the time period and the time-frame.

“He is not going to play this weekend – that is pretty clear – but what I can’t give is a time-frame. There have been a few twists and turns with it.

“We are kind of in the middle of a full assessment.

“I know that is going to sound a little bit like it is taking a while to assess, but there is a little bit to this one so I am probably not really going to be able to give you much.

“Until we get a full picture and a full time-frame, and we are in that process at the moment, then I can’t really tell you a huge amount.”

Saracens absorbed the loss of three England stars to put Harlequins to the sword in a 38-10 Gallagher Premiership victory at The Stoop.

Ben Earl and Elliot Daly were lost to respective knee and hamstring injuries during the warm-up and just seconds into the game Alex Lozowski was forced off after twisting awkwardly when chasing down Marcus Smith.

The champions took the disruption in their stride, however, as they amassed six tries in a London derby that lacked the spite seen in recent years, with Harlequins far too submissive against the league’s best side.

Both teams’ World Cup players were on parade and it was Maro Itoje who stood out among them, the lock catching the eye with a couple of big runs but also proving a handful at close quarters.

Marcus Smith and Alex Dombrandt did little to impress England head coach Steve Borthwick, who was watching from the stands, but the fault for a meek Harlequins performance was hardly theirs alone.

Saracens’ pack was typically menacing from start to finish and they supplied the opening try as part of a frantic opening with the excellent Juan Martin Gonzalez driving over from short range.

The champions frequently shuttled the ball across the field and with some success, forcing Quins to scramble out wide.

When the home ruck defence had gone missing near the centre of the pitch, Saracens reacted in a flash with Andy Christie stampeding into space only for the supporting Ivan van Zyl to cut an awkward supporting line.

Quins were breached too easily again on the half-hour mark when a counter attack launched by Alex Goode was given legs by Itoje and a phase later Olly Hartley had barged over.

A line-out drive finished by Jamie George provided Saracens’ next try as the hosts continued to be overpowered up front and as they trudged off for half-time 19-3 behind, there was no obvious way back.

Their outlook continued to deteriorate as Christie added a maul try soon after the interval, registering the bonus point, but only once Itoje had staged a marauding run.

Smith was trying his best to inspire a revival, on one occasion using his footwork to weave into space, and it took a try-saving tackle from Alex Lewington to stop Quins from scoring.

Pressure was building on the Saracens line but they weathered the storm, advanced downfield and used a mixture of forward power and polished back play to cross through Tom Parton.

Lewington and Andre Esterhuizen exchanged tries and Saracens could have plundered one more late on but Tom Willis spilt the ball forward over the line following fine approach work by Gonzalez.

George Ford says England’s players have been teasing Marcus Smith about using rumoured interest from Racing 92 as “leverage” to negotiate his new contract at Harlequins.

Smith this week ensured he will remain available for Test selection for the foreseeable future by agreeing an extended deal with the 2021 Gallagher Premiership champions.

French club Racing, who will be coached by former England boss Stuart Lancaster next season, were reportedly lining up the 24-year-old as a potential replacement for Bath-bound Finn Russell.

“There has been a fair bit of joking going on,” Ford said of his fellow fly-half.

“Whatever the rumours were about Racing a few weeks ago, everyone was saying, ‘you were always going to stay at Quins, you were just using that as a bit of leverage’.

“I’ve spoken to him, obviously he’s delighted to be staying, it’s his club and the influence he has on that team is incredible so I’m sure everyone at Quins will be buzzing for him to stay.

“I can only speak for myself but when you’re English and you want to play for England, you’ve got to play for an English club.

“It means a lot to play at club level and international level for us all, it’s no different for Marcus.”

Ford and Smith are currently working together at England’s Surrey training base as part of a 39-man preliminary World Cup squad.

Steve Borthwick is fine tuning plans for the forthcoming tournament in France, with four warm-up matches scheduled next month.

The head coach was given less than nine months to prepare for the game’s greatest competition after replacing Eddie Jones on December 19.

While Australia, who subsequently appointed Jones in January, and Wales have also recently changed coach, Ford warned England must be the “fastest-learning team” in order to be up to speed in time for their Pool D opener fixture against Argentina on September 9.

Yet the 30-year-old Sale player also believes the situation could prove beneficial.

“I think we’re in a unique place in terms of that,” said Ford, who is preparing for his third successive World Cup. “It’s a great opportunity.

“In terms of the timeframe, we’ve got to be the quickest and fastest-learning team, it’s just the nature of where we’re at.

“At the previous World Cup, we had four years together and it was quite consistent in terms of squad, coaches et cetera but this is a lot different.

“I still think there is a massive opportunity here and one that I don’t think is going to hold us back if we get it right. I think it could be a massive positive for us.

“Sometimes, in a funny way, when you’ve got less time to get somewhere, you’ve got less thinking and less messing around to get there.

“You’ve just got to go and I think that’ll help us as a team.”

England fly-half Marcus Smith has signed a contract extension with Gallagher Premiership side Harlequins.

The 24-year-old is currently part of Steve Borthwick’s training squad preparing for the World Cup in France.

Smith, who helped Quins to the Premiership title in 2021, made his debut during the 2017/18 season and has gone on to score over 1,000 points in the league.

“I love the club,” Smith said on the announcement of his new deal.

“It’s been my home since the age of 14 and I want to repay the faith shown in me and help Quins win trophies.

“We have unfinished business, we want to challenge for titles and create more memories for our supporters.”

While the length of Smith’s extension has not been confirmed, the club announcement said it will keep him at the Stoop beyond next season.

England head coach Steve Borthwick has made former All Black Nick Evans his new attack coach ahead of the Six Nations.

With Kevin Sinfield already installed as defence coach, Borthwick believes he has found another ideal candidate to galvanise the Red Rose at the start of a Rugby World Cup year.

Evans will take time out from his coaching duties at Harlequins to join the England set-up.

It is unclear for now what involvement Martin Gleeson will have, having been attack coach under Borthwick's predecessor, Eddie Jones.

Evans, who won 16 caps for New Zealand before signing for Harlequins in 2008, retired from playing in April 2017 but remains an influential figure at the Premiership club.

Borthwick said: "I am delighted that Nick is joining our team ahead of the Six Nations. Nick brings with him a wealth of different experiences as a player and coach, which will be incredibly valuable to the growth of our team. 

"I know that Nick understands the pride and responsibility that comes with representing your country. We aim to build an England team that our nation can be proud of, and I know that our supporters will be very excited by what Nick can bring to our side."

Former Leicester Tigers head coach Borthwick took over from Jones after the Australian was sacked in December, and it remains to be seen whether he may want Evans to stay involved leading up to the World Cup if the Six Nations brings positive results.

Harlequins, who were thanked by Borthwick on Friday, have said Evans will return to them on a full-time basis after the Six Nations.

The appointment of Evans comes during a week that saw Matt Proudfoot's tenure as England forwards coach come to an end.

England launch their Six Nations campaign against Scotland at Twickenham on February 4, having won just two of their five matches in each of the past two championships.

Joe Marler has been banned for two weeks with a further four suspended over comments made by the England and Harlequins prop to Bristol Bears' Jake Heenan.

Marler, who has been capped 79 times by England, reportedly made a remark over Heenan's mother during Quins' 15-12 Premiership defeat to Bristol at the Stoop on Tuesday. 

The comment led to a melee on the field between the two sets of players and the Bristol flanker received a penalty in the aftermath.

Marler was given a six-week suspension on Friday but four of those have been suspended. He will also be required to give a presentation to a local club or school, as well as a Premiership academy, on what the core values of rugby are.

Gareth Graham, RFU disciplinary panel chair, said: "The player [Marler] accepted that his conduct was prejudicial to the interests of the game.

"Rugby's core values are not empty words or slogans which can be signed up to and then ignored. They are integral to the game.

"The insulting and offensive comments made by the player were wholly inappropriate; such comments should form no part of the modern game."

Marler is no stranger to controversy on the field, having been suspended and fined in 2016 for an incident with Wales prop Samson Lee, while he received a 10-week ban in 2020 for grabbing Alun Wyn Jones' genitals during a Six Nations match.

Luke Cowan-Dickie will end his England career after the Rugby World Cup next year by joining Top 14 heavyweights Montpellier.

The hooker, who has won 42 England caps and three for the British and Irish Lions, will end his 12-year spell with Exeter Chiefs to move to France at the end of the season.

Cowan-Dickie follows his Exeter team-mate Sam Simmonds in making the switch from Sandy Park to Montpellier.

"It's gutting to be leaving," said the 29-year-old, who has made 163 appearances for the Chiefs.

"I've been at the Chiefs for 12 years and it's all I've known. That said, this opportunity came up and it was one that I had to think long and hard about. I spoke a lot with my family about it and it wasn't an easy decision to make in the end.

"Obviously, it's a different competition, a different language – which I'll have to learn – but I think it's time for a change.

"Hopefully, I've still got plenty of years left in my career, but this is an opportunity for me to go over there and show what I am all about."

Fellow England international Joe Marchant has also joined the exodus of Premiership players to France, the centre opting to join Stade Francais next season from Harlequins.

Former England and Harlequins rugby union captain Chris Robshaw has announced his retirement from the game at 36.

The back-rower, who traditionally played flanker for club and country, has brought the curtain down on a career stretching back to 2005.

Robshaw, who won 66 international caps, made his Test debut in 2009 against Argentina, and took the armband for the national team in 2012, leading them through the 2015 Rugby World Cup on home soil.

Injuries restricted chances after he was replaced as skipper by Dylan Hartley, and he was phased out before the 2019 World Cup in Japan, and finished his club career in Major League Rugby with San Diego Legion.

"After 18 years of professional rugby and a career I could only have dreamt of, I am officially announcing my retirement from the great game," Robshaw wrote in a statement posted on Twitter.

"Following three dislocated shoulders in quick succession, my body has told me to blow the final whistle.

"No words can do justice to how fortunate and privileged I am to have enjoyed a career in the sport I am most passionate about.

"Playing for and captaining England has been the greatest honour of my life and there is no comparable feeling to representing and leading your country.

"It was a responsibility I approached with respect, optimism and determination and I hope in the coming years I can use my experience and knowledge gained to support other players on their journeys."

Marcus Smith has been called up to the British and Irish Lions squad for their tour of South Africa, as Finn Russell struggles with an Achilles tendon injury.

Fly-half Smith, 22, helped Harlequins to the Premiership title this season and made his England debut against the United States last week.

He followed up his international bow with a superb showing in a 70-14 demolition of Canada on Saturday, kicking nine conversions.

After impressing at Twickenham, Smith – following coronavirus testing – will be heading to South Africa to join up with the Lions, who faced the Sharks on Saturday in their third match of the tour, with the three-Test series against the Springboks starting later this month.

And Gatland is excited to see what Smith can bring to his squad, with Russell likely to be out for several weeks.

"Finn Russell has been managing an Achilles injury he's had for a couple of weeks, but he's not going to be 100 per cent," Gatland explained.

"He's got a slight tear in his Achilles, they're going to inject it and see if they can manage it through the next couple of weeks, as a result we're going to call up Marcus Smith to come out here on Sunday.

"He'll catch a flight, needs to be PCR tested after the [England] game and hopefully all is well. He's been absolutely outstanding, I'm a big fan of his, watched him play last year, thought he was really promising, had a great season for Harlequins.

"He's been playing regularly, winning the championship with Harlequins, playing for England now and a similar player to Finn Russell so a like-for-like replacement in a lot of ways, so he might add something exciting and new to the squad."

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