Will England have to field a patched-up front-row in the Six Nations to deal with injuries?


For what feels like the first time in a long time, everybody is going into the Six Nations completely blind. While everyone knew Ireland had a great shot in 2023, and likewise France in 2022, nobody knows how Ireland, France, Wales, Scotland, England, or Italy will take to the field this year. 

Nearly three months have passed since the end of the World Cup, and since then, there have been some changes. In the England team, specifically, greats like Mako Vunipola, Courtney Lawes, and Jonny May have bowed out of the international stage. Captain Owen Farrell has also taken a step back to look after his mental health, while injuries to Joe Marler, Tom Curry, and Manu Tuilangi have ruled them ineligible for at least the first few weeks of the competition. 

With England in mind, this could prove the difference when it comes to how they are going to play in 2024. Although they were the only northern hemisphere team to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, their performances have been sub-par compared to their previous highs of 2019. With notable absences and key injuries to their forward pack, many are wondering whether their chances of Six Nations glory have ended before the competition has even started.

Will England Have to Field a Patched-Up Front Row?

One of the questions many seem to be asking is about their front row. With key forwards missing from their lineup, there is bound to be a switch-around in the scrum. In cases like this, the emphasis typically falls on the front-row, which has to be resolved in accordance with absences in the back. The scrum, of course, has to work as a unit, and if key players are missing in any position, then it’s going to affect how the rest of the scrum lines up. Could this be why Kyle Sinkler is absent from the 36-man England squad. Is this why Dan Cole – one of the oldest players in the team – has been recalled once again as tighthead? 

One of the last things England needs is a front-row that has been patched up to deal with injuries, but in our opinion, this isn’t what’s happening. For starters, Kyle Sinkler has recently been tipped for a spot in the Top 14, which could be the reason why he’s been snubbed by Borthwick. Likewise, we all know that age is just a number. Just look at how Dan Cole has been performing in a Leicester shirt, or how Danny Care has been tearing up the field for Harlequins. 

The front-row, in many ways, can tick just as well as it ticked against South Africa in the semis. You have new captain Jamie George leading them in the middle, with rising star Theo Dan set to replace him at 60 minutes, and then you have the experience of Dan Cole and the ‘little rhino’ rage of Ellis Genge at loose.

What are England’s Chances?

As we mentioned before, it’s incredibly hard to call how any team is going to perform in this year’s Six Nations. Ireland is without Sexton for the first time. France is without Dupont. England is without several key players. And every team is treating 2024 like a ‘soft reboot’, using the opportunity to blood new rising stars and set a marker for their four-year World Cup campaign. 

That being said, England’s team is looking strong. You would think that losing Farrell would be a massive blow, especially after the recent news of Farrell’s move to Racing 92. And in many ways, it is. But look who’s replacing him. Marcus Smith and George Ford. Both of these players are world-class fly-halfs, with their own unique ability to control the game and find a win. Just look at Ford’s performance against Argentina in the opening World Cup match, where he scored three drop-goals to salvage a win despite the early red card. These players are not second-best, they just haven’t been given a full opportunity to shine. 

They have that now, and with England cleverly getting around their injury problem to field a front-row with bite, it’s likely they can take people by surprise when they first step out at Stadio Olimpico on the 3rd of February. As ever, we’re all going to have to wait and see.

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