London - Saracens lock Maro Itoje will be available for the start of England's Six Nations title defence after his club said he faces a maximum of four more weeks of rehabilitation.
Itoje, 23, sustained a fractured jaw in the 20-19 defeat at Harlequins on December 3 and required surgery in which two plates were inserted in his face.
There were fears he would not recover in time to face Italy on February 4.
But a visit to a specialist brought a more optimistic prognosis, pointing to a return for the final two rounds of Saracens' Champions Cup group campaign against the Ospreys and Northampton.
"Maro is probably three or four weeks away. He went to see the specialist who said a maximum of six weeks and he's already done a week and a half," said Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall.
Itoje was nominated for World Rugby's world player of the year for 2017 after a stunning 12 months that included England's Six Nations win, Saracens' second consecutive European triumph and the British and Irish Lions' drawn series with world champions New Zealand.