LONDON (AFP) – England hope the return of captain Courtney Lawes will still give an “edge to the team” in a Six Nations clash with champions Wales after Manu Tuilagi was dramatically sidelined from today’s match at Twickenham.
Tuilagi was recalled to the starting XV named by England coach Eddie Jones on Thursday only for the powerhouse centre to be ruled out of a fixture pivotal to the team’s title hopes hours later by what officials said was a “low grade hamstring injury”.
Harlequins’ Joe Marchant had been called up to train with England yesterday.
Such has been the disruption caused by the 46-times capped Tuilagi’s latest setback in an injury-blighted career – he has missed 79 Tests since making his England debut 11 years ago – that Jones now intends to name his revised team today, the day of the game.
Jones said when announcing his original match-day 23 the inclusion of Lawes and Tuilagi meant England had added an “edge to the team”.
But one consolation for the veteran Australian coach is that Lawes remains available as both skipper and blindside flanker after sitting out England’s opening two matches this Six Nations – a 20-17 loss to Scotland and 33-0 rout of perennial strugglers Italy – with concussion.
“Courtney is a great ball-carrier and destructive defender,” said Jones, who had appointed Lawes’ fellow back-row forward Tom Curry as stand-in skipper.
“He (Lawes) has good skills around the players. When he speaks they listen, he leads by example.”
Jones, however, was “not that impressed” by Lawes, when he took charge of England after their first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup – a tournament where they were beaten by Wales at Twickenham.
“His attitude was very laid back, he had a lot of injuries, he didn’t train much,” said Jones. “He had to come up to the standards of what we require in the team and he has done that brilliantly.