The Six Nations Tournament – What’s Happened to England’s Squad?
England’s 2018 Six Nations opener gets underway at 15.00 on Sunday, when they take on Italy at the Stadio Olimpico. Eddie Jones will not only be hoping that they can win but also that they can get through the match without incurring any injuries. He’s already been forced to change his pre-tournament training plans to account for the faltering fitness levels of his men.
With eighteen players either having already been confirmed as unavailable for at least part of the tournament or with their fitness still in doubt, their chances of winning the rugby trophy are nowhere near as high as they could be.
Big names who will be absent due to injury this weekend include: Saracens’ Billy Vunipola; Wasps’ stars Nathan Hughes and Elliot Daley; and Exeter’s Henry Slade. Kyle Sinckler returned to the UK with a hamstring injury last week, while Jack Nowell, Chris Robshaw and Mike Brown have also been the subject of fitness concerns. Despite having been called up for the tournament, James Haskell and Joe Marler won’t be able to participate in first two matches either as they are currently serving bans.
The good news for their fans is that Ben Te’o is fit again, following an operation on his ankle late last year. However, with so many players out of action, Jones has resorted to including eight uncapped players in his squad. While that means that the likes of Bath’s Zach Mercer, Exeter’s Alec Hepburn and Harlequins’ Lewis Boyce will get the opportunity to represent their country, there will be fewer players with international experience than usual within the squad.
Which Teams Could Benefit from England’s Injury Issues?
Whilst the other five teams competing in the tournament would usually be delighted with this news, they all have concerning absentee lists themselves. Italy, the first team to take on the defending champions, have already confirmed that Michele Campagnaro and Ornel Gega will be unavailable, for example.
Scotland will be without players such as Richie Gray, WP Nel, Ross Ford, Zander Fagerson, Fraser Brown and Allan Dell when they take on Wales at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on Saturday. The Scots will take heart from their opponents’ injury list, however, which includes Sam Warburton, Rhys Webb, Jonathan Lydiate, Rhys Priestland and Jake Ball.
The French squad, who will be at home to Ireland on Saturday, will be without key players such as Camille Lopez, Damian Penaud, Gabriel Lacroix, Charles Ollivon and Judicael Cancoriet. What’s more, several members of the squad have been suffering from a stomach bug in the run-up to the tie.
That could be good news for Ireland, who are seen as England’s closest rivals for the 2018 title. They will also be missing players such as Jamie Heaslip, Tommy O’Donnell and Rhys Ruddock, but many believe that they could seize the rugby trophy this year.
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