Second row is the main area of concern for Ireland for the opening round of the Six Nations. Iain Henderson faces some time on the sidelines after a reoccurrence of an ongoing problem with his finger. Tadhg Beirne will miss the opening two games after sustaining a knee injury in Munster’s win over Exeter. Dan Leavy is still rehabbing a calf problem, but will probably be in contention for selection for Leinster against Scarlets this weekend.
Scrum-halves are a potential issue. Conor Murray is back, but both Kieran Marmion and Luke McGrath are out. John Cooney is in flying form for Ulster, and is a very able deputy. Caoilin Blade will be raring for a run out, after impressing for Connacht for the last few seasons. Joe Schmidt will have been happy to see two of his most important big game players return to action in the Champion’s Cup last weekend, Sean O’Brien and Robbie Henshaw both completed 55 minutes against Wasps and showed no signs of being rusty.
Hooker is the biggest area of concern for Scotland. While number one choice Stuart McInally is fit, usual backups Fraser Brown and George Turner are unlikely to feature. Gregor Townsend has called up the uncapped trio of Edinburgh’s Dave Cherry, Glasgow’s Grant Stewart or Leicester’s Jake Kerr.
Hamish Watson was a huge loss to Scotland last weekend. The openside has a firm grasp on the Scotland 7 jersey, and was a part of a very effective combination with Johnny Barclay and Ryan Wilson. ‘Pinball’ was considered by many to be unlucky to miss out on a Lions jersey. Jonny Gray is currently dealing with a shoulder issue, but will remain in camp. His brother Richie unfortunately, will miss the tournament, as will captain Barclay, and the permanently crocked Duncan Taylor.
Eddie Jones may have been tempting fate when he said that England’s injury list is the lowest its been for three years. There are some minor concerns however. Dylan Hartley is set to miss the opening rounds, so Owen Farrell will retain the captaincy. Chris Robshaw is likely to miss the majority of the tournament, as is flanker Sam Underhill, and winger Anthony Watson.
There are recalls however for the Vunipola brothers and Ellis Genge who missed the Autumn internationals through injury. Joe Launchbury was withdrawn early from Wasps’ loss to Leinster, but Dai Young has played down any worries saying “We don’t see it potentially being an issue moving forward.”
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The backrow is an area of concern for Warren Gatland. Taulupe Faletau returned after three months out with a broken arm, only to re-break it in his comeback game.
Ellis Jenkins and Aaron Shingler are both still recovering from cruciate ligament damage, while Ross Moriarty and Ollie Griffiths still haven’t returned to action. James Davies had a reoccurrence of a foot problem playing for Scarlets against the Blues around Christmas and hasnt featured since. Dan Lydiate injured his bicep playing for Wales in November and is a doubt for the start of the competition. Leigh Halfpenny has been included in the extended squad, but is still suffering from concussion symptoms, so it remains to be seen whether he will make it back during the Six Nations. Props Rhodri Jones, Leon Brown and Nicky Smith are also in doubt, as is Cardiff out-half Jarrod Evans. Gareth Davies is also likely to miss the first game or two
France have a quite short injury list, or maybe its harder to judge to the high player turnover rate in the national squad. Dangerous wing Teddy Thomas is the biggest name to miss out for France, along with fellow winger Alivereti Raka, who recently gained French citizenship. Other players to miss out include Castres flanker Mathieu Babillot, prop Cedate Gomes Sa, and veteran lock Yoann MaestriEmbed from Getty Images
Italy have a similar problem to France with the player turnover rate, so there is not a long list of absent players. The two injured players are two important ones however. Gloucester flanker Jake Polledri. Polledri is an incredible ball-carrier and will be a huge loss to Italy’s source of go-forward ball. The other main absentee is electric full-back Matteo Minozzi. Minozzi lit up last year’s tournament with box office displays in every game, earning himself a nomination for Player of the Tournament
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Wales Dealt Six Nations Double-Blow
Wales’ Six Nations title defence has been dealt a massive blow already with two stars facing surgery to fix injuries picked up on international duty
Davies, a key member of the Welsh squad for the past number of seasons sustained a knee injury during Wales’ recent Rugby World Cup campaign, and Scarlets have announced that he will undergo surgery on the injury.
The recovery time for the for the centre is set to be six months, meaning he will miss the entire Six Nations tournament in what could be a critical blow as they look to defend their title. While it also means that he could potentially miss the entire club season for Scarlets.
As for Patchell, things aren’t as severe as Davies, but the fly-half is still set to miss the start of the Six Nations with a shoulder injury, which he too will have surgery on.
He is expected to miss between 12-16 weeks due to the injury in what is a cruel blow for a player that has suffered with injury previously, but had shown some brilliant form in recent times.
It is a far from ideal start to life at the helm for new head coach Wayne Pivac as he heads into his first tournament with the team.
As well as these injuries there are also further concerns regarding the likes of stars Liam Williams and Josh Navidi, who are both currently sidelined through injury, with the former looking likely to miss some part of the Six Nations.
Wales are looking to bounce-back during the tournament following a fourth-place finish at the World Cup, with all players hoping to impress Warren Gatland’s successor.
Munster Star in Six Nations Fitness Race
Munster have confirmed that one of their key men is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines which could put his Six Nations spot in doubt
Munster fly-half Joey Carbery is set for yet another spell in the sidelines according to head coach Johann van Graan due to injury.
Van Graan confirmed that Carbery is still suffering from an ankle injury which he sustained during Ireland’s Rugby World Cup warm-up game against Italy and is not able to put a return date for his comeback due to the nature of the injury.
“He is going to be out for some time. We got to make sure he gets his strength back and we get that ankle fully functional. From Joey’s point of view, obviously, he wants to play but his body is not right. Because of the type of injury he is definitely not going to be back in the next few weeks, I can tell you that,” he said on Carbery.
The out-half was selected ahead of Leinster’s Ross Byrne in Ireland’s World Cup squad despite carrying the injury. However, it was reiterated throughout the tournament that he had fully recovered, which now appears to be untrue.
His head coach also told reporters that the 23-year-old will not undergo surgery on the injury. When asked about the possibility of Carbery playing before Christmas van Graan admitted he is hopeful but he cannot be sure right now.
“I hope so. At this stage it is very difficult for the medical team to determine that. Because he has had it for quite a while the most important thing now is Joey’s health. He is a Munster player. He is under my watch now so we have got to look after him. He is very important for the national team, I believe, for the future of Irish rugby,” he added.
It is a massive blow for the Munster player who only moved from Leinster ahead of last season, and after starting brightly in the red jersey he picked up a hamstring injury that left him out for large portions of the season.
The fear for Carbery now however is that due to the nature of the injury and the inability to place a return date, he could face a race to be fit for Ireland’s Six Nations campaign at the start of February next year. Carbery will hopefully be back in action and back to match fitness by then as he will want the chance to impress new head coach Andy Farrell during his first tournament at the helm.
Japan Could Receive Six Nations Invitation
Following their incredible performances during this year’s Rugby World Cup it appears as though hosts Japan could be set for inclusion in one of the biggest international tournaments according to reports
The report by Martin Samuel claims that the World Cup host nation, who went all the way to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history, are to “receive a shock invitation” to European rugby’s elite international competition.
It was previously thought that a move to the Rugby Championship would make more sense and that it was on the cards as the Southern Hemisphere nations were impressed by the brand of rugby that Japan played.
However, it appears as though the tournament organisers are hesitant to bring them into the championship straight away, and are looking to include them within the next four or five years. Which would see them join come the end of the next World Cup cycle and see them miss out on some valuable development time ahead of the tournament.
The report is clear that although formal talks between the Brave Blossoms and the Six Nations are yet to take place that World Rugby have been made aware that leading figures within the European organisation are very interested in the prospect.
It would be a brilliant opportunity for the Japanese as they look to expand interest in the sport within the country and are in a prime position to do so with interest at an all time high following the success of the tournament in the Land of the Rising Sun.
They have earned respect especially within Europe following wins over Six Nations side’s Scotland and Ireland during the group stages of the World Cup with Japan now sitting ahead of the former in 8th position in the World Rugby rankings due to their performances.
Japan were among several tier two nations backing the making of a Nations Championship which would have allowed the likes of Fiji and themselves compete against the best nations around on an annual basis and with these developments it will raise further questions as to why the competition isn’t being developed.
We will have to wait and see how things progress over the coming weeks and months but it seems as though Japan are in with a bigger chance than ever before in being added to one of the biggest international tournaments on the planet.
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