The physical strain on England’s leading players shows little sign of easing in the next few weeks.
Exeter is resigned to losing Jack Nowell and Harry Williams for several more weeks while Saracens remain unsure if Billy Vunipola will be fit to feature in their European quarter-final against Leinster next month.
Vunipola suffered a broken arm in January, having previously endured lengthy lay-offs after knee and shoulder surgery, but his hopes of a prompt return hang in the balance.
“It’s a little bit uncertain,” said Mark McCall, Saracens’ director of rugby.
“Billy is in a race against time to be ready for the quarter-final. If the arm isn’t right to play then we won’t risk him. He’s been injured enough, we don’t want to re-injure him.”
Meanwhile, Exeter’s director of rugby, Rob Baxter, remains hopeful Nowell and Williams will return for the closing stages of the season.
“We’re looking at weeks rather than months at this stage,” said Baxter.
“Harry has a nerve-related weakness in his tricep but we don’t think it’s too severe. We’re also hoping Jack will still have a significant impact before the end of the season.”