The injury situation for England in the Six Nations tournament worsens as Borthwick expresses frustration over delays from clubs.
England’s preparations for the Six Nations have been hindered due to an unfortunate injury to Bath’s center, Ollie Lawrence. This has prompted a need to reconsider their midfield strategy for the first game against Italy next week.
Luke Cowan-Dickie and Oscar Beard are currently unable to play due to injury, as head coach Steve Borthwick revealed that some Premiership clubs were not timely in informing him about the players’ fitness status.
Max Ojomoh and Will Muir from Bath, along with Jamie Blamire from Newcastle, have joined the team for training in Spain before their first match in Rome. The absence of Lawrence, who has been in top form, is a significant setback as he was expected to play a crucial role against Italy.
Although the severity of Lawrence’s injury is not fully known, it puts Northampton’s inexperienced center Fraser Dingwall in a prime position to start at 12 and presents a challenging decision for Borthwick. Without Manu Tuilagi, Lawrence was expected to bring both strength and speed to the team, but finding a suitable replacement will be difficult unless Borthwick decides to pair Dingwall with his fellow Saints teammate Tommy Freeman, who has a similar build.
At this stage, it could be alluring to choose an immediate Northampton half-back combination of Alex Mitchell and Fin Smith in search of chemistry.
That, however, would mean the uncapped Smith leapfrogging the more experienced Marcus Smith and George Ford, a sizeable gamble despite Northampton’s recent impressive exploits which were capped off by a famous 14‑man victory in Munster on Saturday.
Another option could be to have Henry Slade and Smith play at 13 and 10, while also allowing Dingwall to join them. This combination would bring a lot of talent and skill, but may lack some physicality when it comes to gaining ground. Ojomoh should also be noted for his potential in the future, but currently he is not as favored as Cameron Redpath for Bath’s starting team.
It is unfortunate that Borthwick is currently facing a difficult situation, made even more challenging by the recent injuries of Sale’s Cowan-Dickie and Harlequins’ Beard. While Beard has joined the team in Girona, he is still undergoing protocols for a concussion. However, Cowan-Dickie will not be traveling and will instead be seeking treatment from a specialist at home.
Borthwick is growing more and more disappointed by the lack of communication between clubs and national teams regarding players who may be injured.
Currently, we are addressing new information at a slower pace than we would like, which is disheartening,” stated Borthwick. “Last night, we were discovering things for the first time, which is not ideal.
“I anticipate that our circumstances will improve next year. We are currently finalizing a new EPS agreement and our goal is to have access to all players’ training data, workload, and medical records. This will greatly improve coordination between club and national team activities. As a coach, it is crucial for me to have a clear understanding of the players’ condition and how much I can push them.”
In the past, the England management could have easily given Owen Farrell the No 12 jersey. However, with Racing 92’s announcement on Monday that he has signed a two-year deal to play in the Top 14 league in France next season, this option is no longer available until at least 2026. It is possible that Farrell could extend his contract if he enjoys playing in Paris. This also has significant ramifications for Saracens, who are not commenting on allegations that they have not yet received a requested transfer fee of £500,000 to cover the remainder of Farrell’s current contract.
As and when Farrell and his family do relocate, it can only be hoped they will enjoy the experience and, in due course, return richer for the experience in every sense. For a 32-year-old who has been based in and around St Albans since his teens, a fresh environment has obvious appeal even without the financial incentives, said to be worth up to £1m per year.
During his absence, there will undoubtedly be a void the size of Farrell for both his club and country. His impact has been deeply embedded for over ten years, and it will be interesting to observe how England moves forward without him. Borthwick recognizes that the attention on national team players has never been higher, and the Girona camp aims to alleviate some of that pressure.
“The level of scrutiny on this team, how it is perceived, and the amount of attention it now garners is significantly higher compared to when I departed after the 2019 World Cup. This has raised… which is a reflection of society, but also speaks to the specific impact of the England rugby team.”