Ollie Chessum in contention for England’s World Cup squad after early comeback

Ollie Chessum is in contention to win a place in England’s World Cup squad after making a successful early comeback from the ankle surgery that had jeopardised his tournament hopes.

England feared they had lost their breakout star of the Six Nations after he was ruled out for between five and six months with the injury sustained during preparations to face Ireland in March.

But on Tuesday he took part in a live scrummaging session during training as he closes in on making a complete recovery that should see him named in Steve Borthwick’s 33-strong squad on Monday.

Ollie Chessum during the Guinness Six Nations match at Twickenham

Ollie Chessum announced his arrival as a high-calibre Test player during the Six Nations (Adam Davy/PA)

England had made it clear Chessum would not be risked in Saturday’s opening warm-up match against Wales in Cardiff if not fully fit, but would be willing select him for the World Cup on the strength of his performances this year.

“Ollie’s close to a return. He’s done incredibly well and has been so diligent with his rehab. He looks really good,” attack coach Richard Wigglesworth said.

“He’s definitely a great character and I’ve enjoyed working with him over the last few years, but he’s also a top-quality player who we are keen to get fit.

“The medics said that if he’s free of complications then there’s a very good chance of him being ready for the World Cup. He’s had no complications and flew into his rehab.

“I don’t think we’re going to rush someone back from that injury and say ‘you have to play (against Wales)’ – it’s up to us to make a decision on the best 33 on the back of all the evidence we’ve had.

“Ollie has obviously given pretty strong evidence that he’s a top international player when he was fit.”

Chessum won the first of his nine caps under Eddie Jones but it was during the Six Nations that he announced his arrival as a high-calibre Test player through a series of imposing displays in an otherwise-underperforming team.

The 22-year-old can play lock or blindside flanker and made a big impression on Wigglesworth, who played alongside him and coached him at Leicester until leaving to join Borthwick’s coaching team at the end of the season.

“When Ollie’s fit and firing he brings an energy with him that’s infectious and he’s someone who’s just going to get better and better,” Wigglesworth said.

“He’s got a great attitude, great athletic ability and he’s got the mind to be in an England shirt for a long, long time if he keeps progressing the way he wants to.”

Billy Vunipola has also provided a fitness boost as he shows no adverse effects from his recent knee surgery, nudging him closer to regaining his place as England’s number eight.

“Billy looks highly motivated and he’s had a big impact in training, coming back in straight away,” Wigglesworth said.

“He’s shown his class and his form. His training is slightly modified but not much.”

Borthwick will oversee the final selection meeting in Cardiff on Saturday night before telling each player individually on Sunday whether they made the cut for the World Cup.

The date of the announcement means that the Principality Stadium clash will be the final opportunity for players to play their way into the 33.

“We pick a team to try and win a Test match, without a doubt, but it would probably be disingenuous to say we aren’t trying to get a squad ready for the tournament as well,” Wigglesworth said.

“We have to have a squad that is ready to play in France to the best of its ability. Will the same team play four weeks in a row? No, absolutely not. There will be changes throughout the four weeks.”

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