Injuries hamper England Six Nations preparation
Injuries to key players have hampered England’s preparations for their highly anticipated game against Wales on Saturday. England winger Chris Ashton is the latest player to be ruled out of the Six Nations top of the table clash.
England’s injury woes have increased with the news that Sale Sharks winger, Chris Ashton, will miss the vital Six Nations fixture against Wales. The 31-year-old had returned to the England fold for the first time in 6 years and played 52 minutes in England’s impressive 44-8 win over France. A calf strain means Ashton will join England prop Mako Vunipola, lock Maro Itoje, and hooker Dylan Hartley on the sidelines.
A likely candidate to replace Ashton is Joe Cokanasiga. The Bath winger would be a like for like replacement but would bring a more physical presence to the backline.
At just 21, Cokanasiga obviously lacks experience but his raw power and pace easily make up for this. Cokanasiga was expected to be on the substitute’s bench for the trip to Cardiff but Ashton’s injury is likely to mean a third cap for the youngster. Since his impressive debut in November last year, in which he scored two tries against Japan, Cokanasiga has had his own injury concerns. A knee ligament injury has seen his appearances severely limited, having to endure a 10-week lay-off, but a try-scoring performance for club side Bath in the Gallagher Premiership on Saturday will be a gentle nudge to England coach Eddie Jones that he is ready to play.
Jones prefers to build teams with flexibility in mind and Cokanasiga’s ability to play in differing roles will be a big plus in Jones’ book. In a recent interview the England coach expressed his belief that key to a successful World Cup this year will be having players fulfilling a multitude of roles, saying:
At the World Cup, you have seen it on so many occasions, you need players to be able to play multiple positions. You don’t know what is going to happen and they are going to be tested.– Eddie Jones, England head coach.
Of the other injured players, there was hope that Maro Itoje could return to the England line-up in Cardiff. These hopes were dashed when the Saracens player wasn’t involved in a training camp with England on Sunday. It is now believed that he could return in time for England’s game against Italy.
With the Six Nations tournament conveniently serving as a competitive warm-up for September’s World Cup, these enforced changes may yet be a blessing in disguise for Jones, as his hand is forced with team selection.
The England coach has long been a campaigner of the notion that every player, selected or not, has a part to play in his team. He has long told his players that a place on the bench is not a demotion. He is of the belief that in 10 years’ time, you won’t be naming a 1 to 15 but rather a squad of 23 and “the way you put that on the field is your choice”. England’s team to face Wales will be announced on Thursday.