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England fire warning shot after Lawes, Manu training ground update

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Martin Gleeson has sidestepped the question as to who will skipper England next Saturday against Wales now that Courtney Lawes is back fit and available for selection after missing the opening two rounds of the Guinness Six Nations. Lawes came through Tuesday morning training unscathed with England following his slow return from a mid-January concussion suffered while on Champions Cup duty for Northampton.

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Having twice skippered the Test team during the three-game November series in the absence of the injured Owen Farrell, Lawes was expected to lead England across the entire 2022 Six Nations after Farrell damaged his other ankle and required another operation.

However, concussion left Lawes unavailable for the opening games away to Scotland and Italy and it resulted in Tom Curry being appointed as a first-time skipper, leading the team from his openside berth. 

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Lawes, though, is now back in contention for this weekend’s Twickenham clash with the Welsh – as is Manu Tuilagi – and it will be Thursday morning at the 11:30am England team announcement when the identity of the round three skipper is publicly known as attack coach Gleeson kicked the topic to touch at his mid-Tuesday afternoon briefing. 

“I’ll leave that to Eddie,” he said when asked if Lawes or Curry will lead England in four days’ time. “He [Curry] has led with his actions. I thought last week against Italy he was immense. He was all over the place. He broke records for his GPS the amount of work he got through. He has been really, really good for us and whether he is captain or not he will continue to be a pivotal part of the team.”  

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As regards Lawes, the assistant coach added: “He has been brilliant. He has started back training a little while ago and he has been ramping it up slowly. He was back out there today doing what he does, leading by example, so it was great to see.”

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Gleeson reported a clean bill of health for all 35 of the players that England have training at Pennyhill, including Jack Nowell and Sam Simmonds, but there was a second training session due to be held before it will be confirmed on Tuesday evening what reduced squad Jones will keep with him through to Thursday’s team announcement. He eventually kept on 25, the two Joes – Marchant and Launchbury – the biggest casualties

“We are all good. Everyone has trained today. Big session today and everyone has pulled through fine. We are in a good spot,” enthused Gleeson ahead of a game where England will look to build on their win over Italy following the opening round loss at Scotland. 

“It’s a massive game for us, first game back at Twickenham in the Six Nations this year and first Six Nations game with the fans back for a couple of years. It’s a big game. We are treating it as a quarter-final this week. 

“We have to. It’s knockout stages now for us. We want to keep improving each week and we know Wales fight really hard and are going to make it really difficult for us, so we have got to into this with a quarter-final mentality and we have got to go after Wales this week. We are going after them.”

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Aside from Lawes, Tuilagi is another of the standout November players back in the England mix following an injury layoff that kept him out of the opening two Six Nations rounds. “Manu adds a lot,” reckoned the attack coach. 

“His physical presence, his footwork, his leg speed and just what things he can do, not many other people can do so he just gives you a different dimension to potentially play off. It’s great having him back in the mix.   

“He just gives us that little bit of flexibility in what we can do. Henry (Slade) and Manu played really well in the autumn together and have done previously and if both are selected this week will continue to do so. It is going to be interesting if they both take the field.  

This is how we have got to approach these next three games and that is our mentality, knockout stages. If we don’t get a result on Saturday we are out so it is a quarter-final for us.  

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