Within the space of 24 hours two players for two very different styles of rugby team, both as important to their sides chances in this seasons Championships, were ruled out for their entirety.
First came the news that Wales prop Gethin Jenkins required surgery on a troublesome toe that would put him out of action for up to three months. It had originally been hoped by both region and country that the injury would not require the Cardiff Blues forward to go under the knife, however after playing through the pain barrier for the best part of a season it was clear for all to see that surgery was the only remaining option.
Within a day England had their first major casualty of the tournament as it was revealed that Northampton second-row Courtney Lawes had sustained a knee ligament injury in his clubs loss in last weekend’s Aviva Premiership Rugby match against local rivals Leicester. Lawes, as with Jenkins, will be out for three months.
Although the two players may be at opposite ends of the rugby spectrum; Jenkins having toured with the British and Irish Lions and won two Grand Slams, the 21 year old Lawes having made his international debut last season; they both represent important cogs in their sides chances this year.
Jenkins offers much more around the park than even his modern prop counterparts. His scrimmaging is as good as any in world rugby and he is able to take up his position on both sides of the scrum. Furthermore his work rate is enough to rival any open-side flanker in the game, as was shown in last season’s fixture against England when he made more tackles than any other player in the match.
Lawes, in contrast, is important both as an individual and as part of his second-row partnership with Tom Palmers. The towering lock offers the first real replacement in the engine room to their World Cup winning captain Martin Johnson, now England manager. Furthermore Lawes is able to cover every blade of grass on the pitch without even breaking a sweat at times and while some might see a rangy second row carrying the ball through the middle of the pitch as a hindrance, the Northampton player has the slight of hand and vision necessary to bring his team mates into play, releasing the ball at the crucial moment in the contact zone, thus opening up space for England’s more agile runners.
If England and Wales thought they were the only sides with injury worries they should look again however. Ireland are currently sweating on the fitness of their experienced full-back Geordan Murphy who also may have injured ligaments, this time in his ankle, in the match between Leicester and Northampton. Further analysis of the Leicester captain’s injury is required, however it looks unlikely that he will make his country’s opening fixture against Italy.
This season’s Six Nations Championship kicks off on Friday 4th February as Wales take on England under the floodlights of the Millennium Stadium, and although neither Jenkins nor Lawes will be available, it promises to be a mouth-watering affair, as fixtures between the two sides have often been throughout the years.