The absence of Courtney Lawes from England’s Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup campaign will not leave them short in the second row, according to defence coach John Mitchell.
Lawes will be sidelined for three months as he will undergo surgery on the ankle injury he suffered last week, joining Manu Tuilagi on the long-term casualty list. The 31-year-old who is England’s second most-capped player currently available to Eddie Jones with 85 caps to his name, will definitely miss the entire autumn programme once he enters his rehabilitation, and faces a race to be fit for the start of the Six Nations in early February.
His absence is compounded by the departure of George Kruis, the 45-cap lock who left Saracens at the end of the season and is heading to Japan to ply his trade with Panasonic Wild Knights, thus ruling him ineligible for England selection.
With Jones robbed of 130 caps-worth of experience, what was once the squad’s source of strength is now significantly lighter. Maro Itoje and Joe Launchbury remain in the fold, with the latter expected to be called up once his Premiership commitments with Wasps have been fulfilled, but beyond the pair he is left with internationally inexperienced options.
Bath’s Charlie Ewels has been in and out of Jones’s squads, limiting him to just six starts, while Northampton’s uncapped duo Alex Moon and David Ribbans are currently with the training squad in south-west London.
Mitchell admitted that the England camp are also prepared for injuries, but challenged the likes of Moon and Ribbans to put their hand up for selection by delivering over the course of the next two training camps.
“We wish him (Lawes) all the best and hope he has a very good recovery,” Mitchell said, with the defence coach confirming that the 27 remaining players in the camp were all cleared to train after Piers Francis was removed on Tuesday following a positive Covid-19 test.
“Injuries are part of the game and naturally he will be disappointed. He’s very experienced and is a fantastic guy to have in your team and is well enjoyed by his teammates. But he’ll be the first to acknowledge that now another person gets an opportunity to stake a claim. That’s very good for us because someone else developing in his absence will make us two stronger people as a result.
“We’ve got some really good talent in the second row. Experience is important, but experience is only important if it’s enthusiastic. When you get that energy from an experienced player, it’s valuable.
“But we have some good lock resources and this is now an opportunity for someone else and this will create more depth. Competition is healthy and very important to any team.”
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