Courtney Lawes has been withdrawn from England’s Six Nations squad with a calf injury, continuing a very frustrating season for the 33-year-old and relieving Steve Borthwick of one of his vice-captains.
Lawes limped off within half an hour of Northampton Saints’ loss to La Rochelle on Saturday. It was only his third start of a campaign marred by a concussion and glute problem. David Ribbans, Lawes’ Northampton colleague and a surprise first-team omission, has been called up.
Meanwhile, England are facing an injury crisis at hooker following George McGuigan’s knee injury. Tom Dunn has traveled to Pennyhill Park for a five-day training camp.
With Luke Cowan-Dickie also injured, Jamie George suffered a concussion in the first half of Saracens’ loss to Edinburgh on Sunday night. He will be given a minimum of 12 days rest and may also receive a suspension given that he was injured in a high tackle on Luke Crosbie. The unlimited Jack Walker is the third whore in the England squad.
Lawes captained the team in a 2-1 win over Australia last summer. Borthwick appointed him as one of two vice-captains under Owen Farrell alongside Ellis Genge and was effusive in his praise of Lawes. Kevin Sinfield, England’s defense coach, was equally enthusiastic.
“The way Courtney affects those around him, not through what he says but through what he does, is contagious,” Sinfield said a week ago. “When someone plays 7 out of 10 and Courtney is next to him, you suddenly get an 8 or a 9. That’s an incredible quality and he has it.”
Ribbans’ call-up is the first step of what should be a reformation of the back five of the England peloton. As well as Ribbans, Borthwick has Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Ollie Chessum and Nick Isiekwe covering the slot with Lewis Ludlam, Ben Curry, Ben Earl, Jack Willis, Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds as its back rowers.
Chessum, previously labeled by Eddie Jones as a player capable of playing a role similar to Lawes’s as a lineout jumping blindside flanker, will also be on the back row.
Speaking of George’s potential return ahead of Scotland, Borthwick said: “Jamie will be following the protocols for returning to the game, which give you a daily plan with daily assessments. He was good after the game so now follow that protocol, it can take 12 days.You have to assess what are symptoms and non-symptoms.The protocol has been in place for a while and we will follow that.
“[Lawes and McGuigan] being scanned today [Monday]consult specialists as soon as possible afterwards and we will have a full understanding of the scope and their plans beyond that.”
Borthwick added that Mako Vunipola and Elliot Daly would also be assessed for injuries from Saracens’ play, with England meeting for the first time at Pennyhill Park under Borthwick on Monday night, before training on Tuesday.
Borthwick added: “I’ve been asked how little time we have to prepare and about injuries, and those are good questions. All I want to say as a coach is that there will be players missing, that’s clear. We have a fantastic team to coach with an incredible captain who wants to put in performances that we can be proud of.”
Progressive Rugby, the player welfare lobby group, has criticized George’s return to the pitch in Sunday’s game, suggesting that George showed clear symptoms of a concussion and therefore should not have been considered for a head injury assessment.
“In our opinion, English hooker Jamie George has exhibited clear Category 1 symptoms and has erroneously undergone a HIA rather than being permanently removed. This trial failure, which again calls into question the effectiveness of the HIA tool, not only puts the player in potentially catastrophic risk, but is detrimental to the image of the game we all love,” a statement said.
“At a time when the amateur game is being asked to make sweeping changes. For security reasons, it is the job of the professional game to get their act together. We ask the relevant governing body to urgently investigate this incident.” and wish Jamie George all the best in his recovery.”
Who is on England’s Six Nations squad?
Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, 5 caps)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 95 caps)
Ben Curry (Sell Sharks, 1 cap)
Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 9 international matches)
Tom Dunn (Bad, 3 caps)
Ben Earl (Saracen, 13 caps)
Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears, 43 caps)
Jamie George (Saracen, 72 caps)
Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, 7 caps)
Jonny Hill (Sell Sharks, 19 caps)
Nick Isiekwe (Saracen, 8 caps)
Maro Itoje (Saracen, 62 caps)
Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 14 caps)
Dave Ribbans (Northampton Saints, 4 caps)
Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks, 2 caps)
Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 18 caps)
Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 56 caps)
Mako Vunipola (Saracen, 74 caps)
Jack Walker (Harlequins, capped)
Jack Willis (Toulouse, 6 caps)
Elliot Daly (Saracen, 57 caps)
Owen Farrell (Saracen, 101 caps)
Tommy Freeman (Northampton Saints, 3 caps)
Ollie Hassell-Collins (London Irish, unlimited)
Dan Kelly (Leicester Tigers, 1 cap)
Max Malins (Saracen, 14 caps)
Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 13 caps)
Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, 1 cap)
Cadan Murley (Harlequins, capped)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 52 caps)
Fin Smith (Northampton Saints, capped)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 17 caps)
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 17 caps)
Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 50 caps)
Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers, 7 international matches)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 121 caps)
Who went wrong?
The Borthwick team’s headline omissions are Jack Nowell, Jonny May and Billy Vunipola – all of whom played major parts of the England side during Eddie Jones’ tenure.
Their respective non-selection provides the clearest indication yet of the new regime’s departure from the old, as Borthwick look to bring in new talent who have shown top form for their clubs.
Other notable names that should not be missed are Alex Coles, Hugh Tizzard, Val Rapava Ruskin, Joe Cokanasiga and George Furbank.
As always, Borthwick has been forced to rule out certain names due to injuries.
The loss of star flanker Tom Curry and Exeter whore Luke Cowan Dickie will sting especially as both would probably have been starters against Scotland had they been fit.
Injury continues to keep dynamic winger Henry Arundell out of battle, while Jack Singleton, Guy Porter and Raffi Quirke are also all excluded.
Courtney Lawes’ withdrawal is the final blow to Borthwick. And a knee injury George McGuiganplus Jamie George’s concussion, has caused a big problem with whore.