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England faces a crisis in the Six Nations tournament due to injuries, with Smith needing crutches after leaving a training session.
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England faces a crisis in the Six Nations tournament due to injuries, with Smith needing crutches after leaving a training session.

England has received concerning news regarding Marcus Smith’s injury just before the Six Nations begins. During training, he had to leave due to a leg injury and was later seen relying on crutches. On Monday night, Smith was scheduled to get a scan for his injury, which has left Steve Borthwick with a challenging decision on who will play as fly-half in the first game against Italy in Rome.

Losing Smith for the match against the Azzurri would be a major setback, especially after Owen Farrell’s decision to make himself unavailable. Smith filled in as a substitute full-back during the World Cup, but without Farrell, the 24-year-old Harlequins fly-half was aiming to secure the starting No 10 position. At England’s training camp in Girona, Borthwick is already missing most of his World Cup backline, with Farrell opting to take a break, Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence injured, Joe Marchant and Henry Arundell unavailable in France, and Jonny May retired.

If Smith is unavailable, it is likely that George Ford would be the starting player. However, Borthwick may choose to give a first appearance to the in-form Fin Smith, while George Furbank is also a possibility. Richard Wigglesworth, the attack coach for England, expressed concern about Smith’s fitness, stating, “If he is not [fit], it would certainly be a setback.” He also mentioned that the injury did not seem serious initially and occurred while Smith was jogging near a physio on the sideline.

Ford has recently faced difficulties with injuries and had to receive two knee injections this month. As a result, he was unable to participate in Sale’s Champions Cup trip to South Africa. However, he did return for their defeat against La Rochelle. It was observed that he gave up his goalkicking responsibilities towards the end of the match. Yesterday, he was spotted doing shuttle sprints on his own. Wigglesworth confirmed that Ford is now fully recovered and mentioned that the decision to stop kicking for Sale was due to some knee pain that affected his kicking technique.

Fin Smith is the Premiership’s form No 10 having guided Northampton to the top of the table and turned in a virtuoso performance in Saints’ stunning away victory over Munster before joining up with England. He is yet to win his first cap but Saturday’s trip to Rome would appear to be the ideal time to blood the 21-year-old, who is also eligible for Scotland, either from the start or as a replacement. “Fin is that sort of character who is very keen to improve,” said Wigglesworth.

“He possesses a mindset of a winner, with a competitive edge. I highly admire that he has led the Northampton team to success and has had a significant impact on them. He is an impressive young individual who displays knowledge and innovative ideas in attack. He is proactive and already showing those qualities at the young age of 21. I am eager for him to continue doing so.”

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Due to Lawrence’s absence, Wigglesworth is aiming for the return of Cowan-Dickie and Martin to the team within the next week or two. Slade, who was surprisingly left out of the World Cup squad, is now taking on a more prominent role in midfield. Despite his impressive performances for Exeter, the 30-year-old’s contract is set to expire at the end of the season and he has not yet received any definite offers.

“I am currently in discussions with Exeter about the current situation,” he stated. “Rob Baxter appears to be interested in keeping me on the team, so I hope they present me with a favorable offer. Representing England is a fantastic experience and a major factor in my decision to stay in the country. I need to assess all of my options and see what opportunities are available. While I am content with staying at Exeter, as I have been there my entire career, I will make my choice once all of my options are presented.”

Slade has been joined by two uncapped players, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and Ethan Roots, at England’s training camp. Both players are part of coach Borthwick’s squad. While Feyi-Waboso was also eligible to play for Wales, he ultimately chose to commit to England. Slade shared that he played a role in the 21-year-old winger’s decision. “He had a chat with me about England while Dafydd Jenkins spoke to him about Wales. Joe Hawkins captured a photo of it,” said Slade. “It seems like I won that discussion! I wasn’t aware of his other options, but he has been very impressive.”

Source: theguardian.com