Another tough week for Eddie Jones!
First the bad news – Joe Marler has a broken leg and will be out for 4 or 5 weeks according to the latest Harlequins update. That takes us to 25th February (England at home to Italy).
More likely he could be available to play on the 11th march when England entertain Scotland – this would also give him the chance to play for Quins against Gloucester the previous week.
With Mako already out this is a real front row blow for England.
George Kruis will, fingers crossed, be available for the French game (February 4th), but is unlikely to play a club match before then. Similarly Dylan Hartley’s suspension means he will also lack match fitness as he will not play before the 6 Nations kicks off.
James Haskell has been ruled out of playing for Wasps at the weekend – knowing the concussion protocols it may be longer before he is playing – in any case he has only played 35 seconds in anger since June.
The players already out are Mako, Manu, Chris Robshaw and Billy Vunipola.
So England are likely to be without a number of (probable) first (and second choice) forwards – and this assumes that there are no further injuries in the club games before the 6 Nations starts.
Also last week Elliot Daly came off with a head injury – there has been no news but it must still be of concern if he doesn’t play this week.
There is however some good news – Joe Launchbury will start for Wasps against Toulouse on Saturday –
With Courtney Lawes currently on good form this might tempt Mr Jones to play ‘Super’ Maro at 6.
There are other experienced players available for many of the problems he will face but it is likely to weaken the bench – an area that he used with considerable success in 2016.
In addition both Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell are back and both look on top form – unfortunately, as far as I know, neither of them can prop!
The other piece of good news for England fans is that Bath have signed Sam Underhill for next season (scroll down to meet ‘The Real Deal’) –
The higly rated Osprey’s number 7 has been ‘unavailable’ so far because he plays some miles outside England (although considerably less than the distance between say, Bath and Newcastle) And yes I do know the reason why!
Still, I’m not sure if this agreed move would allow him to be picked for the England squad for the 6 Nations and whether Eddie would do so anyway.
If he did it would add an interesting dynamic to the back row.
At present it looks like the back row against France could well be Itoje, Hughes and Wood – but then it’s always hard to keep up with the Jones isn’t it?