London - England received a boost ahead of their defence of the Six Nations, with prop Joe Marler set for an extraordinary comeback for the Grand Slam champions against France on Saturday.
Marler was informed he would be out of action for five weeks after withdrawing from the warm-up of Harlequins' win over Sale on January 7 with what turned out to be a fractured leg.
That ought to have ruled him out of the first two rounds of the Six Nations but Marler was back in training with England during their recent warm-weather camp in Portugal and now the loosehead prop is in contention to start the opening match against France at Twickenham.
"Joe is looking good and has been taking a full part in training," England forwards coach Steve Borthwick said Monday.
"He's a fast healer. He's done really well, he has been incredibly diligent in terms of doing everything he can to get fit. That's great credit to him," said the former England captain.
Marler's return to fitness is timely given Mako Vunipola, the man who has displaced him as England's first-choice loosehead, is likely to miss the whole of the Six Nations with a knee injury.
"It's great that we have that competition for places at loosehead and we're trying to build that in every single position," explained Borthwick.
"We want top international players competing hard and pushing each other. That's what Joe and Mako did last year.
"There have been a couple of knocks and bangs since, but it's great to have players of that quality."
There was further welcome injury news for England with back-row forwards James Haskell (foot) and Jack Clifford (chest) both given the all clear to face France.
Haskell's lack of recent match time, however, means Tom Wood is likely to remain at openside flanker when England coach Eddie Jones names his side on Thursday.
Nathan Hughes is set to be in at No 8 in place of the injured Billy Vunipola rather than Clifford.
Meanwhile the England squad marked Jones's 57th birthday on Monday by presenting the Australian with a non-slip bathroom mat.
Defence coach Paul Gustard made the presentation after Jones attended last week's official Six Nations launch in London sporting a severely-bruised left eye.
Jones explained his injury by saying he had slipped in the bathroom of his hotel while getting out of a shower.