Spotlight intensifies on new-look England after Manu Tuilagi injury

Spotlight intensifies on new-look England after Manu Tuilagi injury
England will have to make do without the injured centre in a must-win match against Wales

It will have been 722 days since a シックスネイションズ encounter was last held at a full Twickenham when イングランド そして ウェールズ run out into the fading evening light on Saturday. その後、, 今のように, other matters rather trivialised a contest as the realities of the pandemic began to bite, but this rekindling of a great rivalry may provide some welcome distraction from distressing developments elsewhere.

Life can throw up strange patterns of recurrence and so it is that another encounter with Wales comes after a week in which coronavirus restrictions have been lifted in England. At the competition’s pivot point this will decide which of the slow starters continues to build momentum and which is out of tournament contention.

That narrow 33-30 victory for Eddie Jones’s side was the last time that マヌ・トゥイランギ appeared in a Six Nations game. As the centre traipsed off after being dismissed late on there could have been no foretelling the uncertainty of the 24 months that followed, but that Tuilagi’s fitness woes would remain might just have been predicted.

Thus the news of another setback, to the same hamstring that has bothered Tuilagi since injuring himself scoring against South Africa in the corner in November, is a sizeable, if not unsurprising, blow. Just as the outline of Jones’s “new England” appeared to be taking shape, out goes the totem around which it is theoretically drawn.

England have developed a sort of dependency disorder with the centre, allowing them to be clear in their identity when Tuilagi is fit and rather less so during his periods of absence. The failure to develop alternatives is of increasing concern.

Like the sea monsters of folklore, there is a certain mythology that goes along with a unique player seen so infrequently, but England have not been beaten with Tuilagi in the matchday squad at Twickenham since 2012. That amounts to only a total of 15 ゲーム, yet a number of former and current England teammates have spoken of the belief that his presence gives them – his importance psychological as much as structural.

<p>The Sale Sharks centre has been ruled out due to injury </p>

The Sale Sharks centre has been ruled out due to injury

So to lose him so close to the renewal of hostilities is a bitter blow. England have recalled Joe Marchant but will only update their squad on match day. Perhaps that gives Jones a chance to produce a late curveball but it is again proof that he cannot rely on Tuilagi.

While his midfield remodelling may offer a chance for something different Jones has already thrown a change-up. Ben Youngs is in line to win cap 115 this weekend and pass Jason Leonard as England’s most-capped male player, but will have to wait to make history from the bench.

For those that view Youngs as an anachronism in this new England, the effervescent Harry Randall’s start is a pleasing show of faith from the England head coach. Asked to spark the backline kindling, Randall has to develop his game management but Jones has urged him to play his natural game.

“We want to put some pace in the game early,” Jones explained of retaining Randall from the start. “We feel like there will be opportunities and Harry has been in increasingly better form. He’s sharp around the ruck, gives us that instinctiveness with his ability to take quick taps and run quickly.

“Then we have Ben Youngs to finish the game – a half-back with 114 caps coming on to manage that last 20 minutes.”

This is the first time since 2006 that the starting Welsh pack to face England does not include Alun Wyn Jones as they go in search of just a fourth victory at the home of English rugby since 1988. Dan Biggar showed all of his leadership qualities in fighting the pain to limp Wales over the line in the much-needed victory against England, and will have to do so again in a game in which ill-feeling tends to be a rudiment.

Biggar will take on Courtney Lawes, with captains from a single club colliding for just a sixth time in this tournament’s long lineage. Lawes has recovered from a vestibular issue that caused him significant discomfort at the start of the tournament and should now provide a steady veteran head to battle Biggar for the referee’s ear.

The returning Taulupe Faletau should lend similar balance and veteran nous to the Welsh back-row, while Wayne Pivac’s more contentious call is on the wing, where a niggly ankle and middling recent form see Louis Rees-Zammit excluded with Josh Adams fit. For Pivac, the task for his team is clear: “The big challenge for us is to have that same attitude and willingness to throw ourselves around the park like we did [スコットランドに対して] in front of 70,000 mainly Wales fans, to do that in a hostile environment.

“We’ve got to be clinical in everything we do and, when we do get scoring opportunities, we’ve got to be pretty ruthless.”

<p>France celebrate after defeating Ireland in Paris </p>

France celebrate after defeating Ireland in Paris

Scotland vs France

French grand slam hopes have begun to really grow after beating Ireland, but Fabien Galthie and his side have been derailed by Scotland before. The defeats of the last two years have been, to some extent, self-imposed and Galthie will be hoping his side can keep their heads and stay on track with a win at Murrayfield.

Scotland’s chances have not been helped by a fallow week of injury blows, particularly up front, and Matt Fagerson has failed to recover in time to make the 23. The selection of a second openside in Rory Darge next to Hamish Watson is fascinating – the pair of breakdown terriers will hope to slow French ball, even if the Scottish pack looks a tad undersized. You feel Gregor Townsend will need a big performance from Finn Russell against familiar club foes.

<p>Johnny Sexton is expected to return for Ireland’s meeting with Italy </p>

Johnny Sexton is expected to return for Ireland’s meeting with Italy

Ireland vs Italy

Can Ireland put Italy to the sword in a manner that England and France never quite managed to? The accuracy and clarity of their structured attack suggests they have the potential to against an Italian side who play their first match of the tournament away from Rome. 場合, as is expected, Johnny Sexton is named to start it would be a shame for Joey Carbery, but there is sense in returning the captain to the starting line-up with England and Scotland still to come.

It has been a strange couple of weeks for Italy, with the rumours about South African involvement and the Six Nations’ strains to deny the report. The Springboks’ addition still feels the direction of travel, but little is truly certain. For as much as there may be promise of better times ahead for Italy’s senior men’s side they could do with another performance to show their growth. There are so many conversations ongoing and these look a crucial six months or so as the future of the sport, particularly internationally, is determined.