Ben Youngs is being made to sweat on reaching his century of England caps by the coronavirus outbreak causing such alarm around the world.
Eddie Jones’ senior player is two appearances short of his ton and will pick up one of those against Wales on Saturday assuming he stays clear of injury.
But there is a real danger he will then be marooned on 99 as England’s game in Rome the following week is under serious threat of postponement due to Italy being Europe’s worst-affected country.
With Jones not planning to involve his World Cup stars in England’s two-Test tour to Japan in July, Youngs could be left with an anxious wait until autumn to be enrolled in the 100 Club.
The Leicester star admitted: “There are plenty of people who have got near it and something’s got in the way.
“I was speaking to Cian Healy after the Ireland game. He’s injured and out for the remainder (of the championship) on 98.
“I’ll take it week by week. (Coronavirus) is a hot topic across the world, isn’t it, so we’ll see how it plays out.”
Youngs, 30, reached three figures last Sunday when he added England cap number 98 to his two Tests with the British and Irish Lions.
Asked if he celebrated the milestone, he confessed: “I didn’t, to be honest. I’m obviously aware of it but it would be nice to do it just for England."
Concern over the virus has grown with Friday’s announcement of the first person to be infected within the UK – and in Japan of the first UK citizen to die after being infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
But English rugby chiefs say their position remains unchanged from Wednesday when Six Nations organisers declared that “all other matches are currently scheduled to go ahead as normal”.
The Italian sports minister is due to review coronavirus restrictions in his country today and meetings relating to the championship are arranged for Paris this week.
In the meantime England will assume Alun Wyn Jones and his Wales team are Twickenham bound on Saturday – and prepare with the intention of replicating the tour de force which floored Ireland.
A significant aspect of England’s back-to-back wins has been the power surge provided by their subs bench and, in particular, loosehead prop Ellis Genge.
The Leicester star has added real impact, scoring the winning try against Scotland and firing up the England pack to steamroller the Irish forwards for Luke Cowan-Dickie’s try a week ago.
“He’s exciting, isn’t he?” said Youngs. “Gengey sits there on the bench bottled up with all this anger. He wants to get out there and perform.
“His aggression, power, his ability to carry and be extremely aggressive within the carry, it’s a fantastic trait.
“For me as a halfback he’s someone you want to give the ball to, to win momentum and say, ‘you have it, go get it for us’. I think he loves the idea that he can be a guy who can do that for us.”
Ben Youngs was at Harwell RFC for a Canterbury event, giving grassroots players the chance to train with England.
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