England are ready to throw Courtney Lawes straight into their crunch Six Nations clash with Wales in Cardiff if he impresses during training; scrum coach Richard Cockerill insists there would be no qualms over naming Lawes in the starting XV or on the bench on February 25
Last Updated: 15/02/23 3:07pm
England coach Richard Cockerill expects Courtney Lawes to play some part in his side’s crunch Six Nations meeting against Wales a week on Saturday, provided the team’s vice-captain impresses during training.
Lawes has been receiving treatment in camp in the hope of facing Wales, having struggled with a calf injury that has prevented him from featuring so far in this year’s tournament.
Lawes’ last international appearance was as captain during the July tour to Australia but concussion followed by glute and calf problems have limited him to only 170 minutes of rugby for his club Northampton this season.
The 33-year-old, who can play lock or flanker, will take part in his first full-blooded practice session on Thursday as he closes in on his comeback.
Having amassed 96 caps for England and five for the Lions, scrum coach Cockerill insists there would be no qualms over naming Lawes in the starting XV or on the bench despite his lack of game time.
“Courtney has done parts of training this week. He’ll take full part tomorrow (Thursday) and next week he should be taking full part in training. Hopefully he’ll be available for selection,” Cockerill said.
“Depending on how he trains, there’s probably no concern over picking him. He’s an experienced player and he’s had long injuries previously and come back in and played well, for both club and country. So that doesn’t really concern us when it comes to a guy of his stature.”
Meanwhile, Kyle Sinckler’s availability had been thrown into doubt by a facial injury, but Cockerill also expects the tighthead prop to be fit to face Wales.
If Sinckler’s wound fails to heal sufficiently, Dan Cole and Will Stuart will battle it out for the number three jersey against Warren Gatland’s men.
“Kyle’s got a bit of a cut on the end of his nose. He’s a 29-year-old tighthead and those are the first stitches he’s had on his face, so he was probably due some!” Cockerill said.
“And it was from Ellis Genge’s boot, so it was friendly fire as well! Kyle’s fine, he’s just avoiding opening them up again in training, but he’s doing everything else.”
Sale flanker Ben Curry is part of a 26-man squad that is taking part in a three-day training camp in London this week despite being dropped against Italy, but there is no place for his twin brother Tom who is nearing recovery from a hamstring issue.
In a sign of Manu Tuilagi’s slide down the pecking order he has been left out of the 26 altogether with Henry Slade, Ollie Lawrence and Joe Marchant the specialist centres named by head coach Steve Borthwick.
England advanced their aim of improving the worst performing tier-one scrum of 2022 in Sunday’s victory over Italy and Cockerill is determined to leave the set-piece in good health when he steps down at the end of the Guinness Six Nations.
Cockerill is to take up a role as Montpellier’s forwards coach for the next three years.
“We’ve made good progress at the scrum and most of that is down to the players’ attitude to what we need to get better at and where we sat post-autumn in tier one, which was last,” he said.
“Once I explained where we’re at, what we needed to do and how we can fix it, the players have got to work doing that. It’s got better, it’s not where we want it to be but it’s certainly getting better.
“We’re spending lots of time on our set-piece and you get results from what you spend time on.
“Steve Borthwick’s obviously an exceptional forwards coach and the blend of our skillsets works well together.
“Leaving was a very difficult decision but one that I thought was right for myself.
“I like French rugby, I’ve played there and I’ve coached there and this is an opportunity to go back and do a longer stint.
“It’s more of a personal thing than anything else – there was no ulterior motive. There are no underlying reasons why. It was just a great opportunity in a great part of the world.
“Montpellier are currently French champions and it’s something I really want to do.”
England training squad
Forwards: O Chessum (Leicester Tigers), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), B Curry (Sale Sharks), A Dombrandt (Harlequins), B Earl (Saracens), E Genge (Bristol Bears), J George (Saracens), N Isiekwe (Saracens), M Itoje (Saracens), L Ludlam (Northampton Saints), W Stuart (Bath Rugby), M Vunipola (Saracens), J Walker (Harlequins), J Willis (Toulouse).
Backs: H Arundell (London Irish), O Farrell (Saracens), O Hassell-Collins (London Irish), O Lawrence (Bath Rugby), M Malins (Saracens), J Marchant (Harlequins), A Mitchell (Northampton Saints), H Slade (Exeter Chiefs), M Smith
(Harlequins), F Steward (Leicester Tigers), J van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers), A Watson (Leicester Tigers).
England head to Cardiff on February 25 to face a struggling Wales who are yet to get a win in this year’s championship (4.45pm). For Italy, a home clash awaits against Grand Slam hopefuls Ireland (2.15pm).