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England defend robust training that has left 4 players - including Underhill - injured

By Liam Heagney

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John Mitchell has defended the robustness of England training, insisting there is nothing sinister going on even though four players who have been with Eddie Jones’ squad this past fortnight have been sidelined with injuries such as a damaged knee MCL, a facial bone fracture, concussion and a calf muscle issue. 


It was midweek last week when the uncapped Sean Robinson of Newcastle was ruled out of the entire summer series with an MCL knee injury sustained in training. This was followed by the confirmation this Thursday that Miles Reid of Bath, another uncapped player, had suffered a facial bone fracture that would also keep him out of the games versus Scotland A, the USA and Canada.  

The setbacks didn’t end there, however, as the naming on Friday of the A team to play at Leicester this Sunday revealed that the concussed Sam Underhill and the calf-troubled Fraser Dingwall were now also unavailable for selection after sustaining their injuries at England training but they are expected to be back in contention next week.

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The banged-up four are not the first players to have gotten hurt at training with Jones’ England, though. Pain seems to be a regular occurrence. For instance, Harry Randall, Courtney Lawes and Max Malins all pulled up lame during 2021 Six Nations training but assistant coach Mitchell was adamant there was nothing disturbing going on in England camp. “Unfortunately, they are just part of the game,” he insisted. “I don’t think it is new in the game at all.

“You have had other teams, including the Lions, that have lost players in their preparation. The demands of this level of rugby require you to train and stress the players at a level that is equivalent to the game or above the game. It’s part and parcel of the preparation. There has been no madness in any of these injuries, they have just been situations that sometimes happen in contact. You are always going to get muscle or soft tissue injuries as a result of stressing players coming out of an extensive season.”

Asked for an explanation as to how Underhill was concussed, Mitchell added: “We were doing some ruck defence (on Thursday) and he just got a body-on-body type collision that just clipped him on the chin. He will go through the protocols.” The XV for Sunday’s A team game will see five players officially captured by England even though it is an uncapped match. Midfielder Dan Kelly has played for Ireland U20s, prop Joe Heyes is eligible for Wales and Ireland, Randall is Welsh-qualified, Jacob Umaga is English-born but is of New Zealand and Samoan descent while skipper Lewis Ludlow has Welsh family connections. 


“I don’t think capturing them has been on our mind,” said Mitchell. “It’s more been developing our team cohesion and who we think is the right team to start the summer series, with a large thinking around creating the right competition where players are presented an opportunity and those that have missed selection that we look at their response for future weeks.”


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