Rob Baxter issued a fitness update on Exeter hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie

England are sweating on a Luke Cowan-Dickie injury ahead of the Rugby World Cup with the Exeter Chiefs star recovering from neck and ankle surgeries.

Cowan-Dickie, 29, could have played his last game for Exeter ahead of his move to Montpellier as he faces a race against time to be fit before the end of the domestic season.

Speaking before Chiefs take on Cowan-Dickie’s future employers in the Champions Cup last 16, Exeter’s director of rugby Rob Baxter even said he felt sorry for his player as everyone attempts to fast track his rehab.

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Baxter said: “He is having an assessment today (Thursday) which will give him some guidance on how the injury is recovering. He has got another one booked in in a few weeks’ time. The RFU are also investigating to see if there is anything they can do to speed up the recovery, they are concerned World Cup-wise. So everything has been poured into it.

“I feel a bit sorry for the guy, he is a bit like a live experiment for everybody but obviously he is desperate to get on with things as well. There is nothing definitively saying here and now that he won’t be fit by the end of the season, but there is also definitively saying that he will be.”

Cowan-Dickie injury: What is the problem?

Baxter was able to shed more light on the Cowan-Dickie injury, adding: “The issue at the moment is nerve recovery… Now there are sometimes a surgeon or a specialist might go, ‘Look, this is as good as it is going to get’ but that is quite rare. Most of them are, ‘This has improved from the last time we assessed you’, so that means we are still on an improvement curve.

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“That is where Luke is at the moment, he is on an improvement curve and what has to happen is that has just got to maintain it to get him back to full fitness. Where that recovery stops will be where he ends up on his fitness pathway. It is not necessarily a plateau, it’s just the time that has to pass.

“Montpellier haven’t been in touch with us. I don’t think anyone is sitting here thinking the move is off. Everyone is thinking Luke is going to make a decent recovery and he is going to be ready to go and he is going to be a very good player. That is the overriding feeling around the club, and we haven’t had any indication that that is going to change.”

The Exeter boss praised Cowan-Dickie’s professionalism and described him as a “caged lion” as he attempts to get himself back on the pitch before bidding farewell to Devon.

Related: Richard Cockerill swaps England for Montpellier

Will Luke Cowan-Dickie be fit for the World Cup?

“There is nobody in the club wanting Luke to be fit more than me because he is an absolute nightmare when he is not playing,” said Baxter. “It is bad enough when he is playing, but sometimes the only thing you hear around the club is Luke screaming at a physio to move to the next session or get on with this, or grabbing one of the S&C coaches and going, ‘What are we doing next?’

“He is a bit like a caged lion at the moment, prowling around trying to get on with things. 100 per cent, if he can get fit before the end of the season for us or before the World Cup, he will be flying. There is every good reason to get him fit because he will fly into it with absolute abandon.

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“That part of it is without doubt. He isn’t walking around with his head down going, ‘Poor me’. It’s almost the other way around. That is the part of his character that if he is going to get back quickly will drive him as much as anything else.”

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