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England Six Nations blow as 'very annoyed' Cowan-Dickie ruled out

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

Exeter have confirmed that Luke Cowan-Dickie will be sidelined for the start of the upcoming Guinness Six Nations with England as the hooker was meeting with a surgeon on Tuesday to decide what treatment is needed for his latest injury. The 29-year-old hooker’s Test career will come to an end later in 2023 when his post-World Cup move to Montpellier will leave him ineligible to be selected by Steve Borthwick.

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However, hopes that he would wield a significant influence on the start of next month’s Six Nations have now also been dashed after Exeter’s boss Rob Baxter provided an injury update from Pretoria ahead of this weekend’s Chiefs match versus the Bulls in the Heineken Champions Cup.

Cowan-Dickie was the starting hooker for three of the four England matches in November but last Saturday’s ankle damage in the Exeter win over Northampton in the Gallagher Premiership will now sideline him from the upcoming campaign that begins with the February 4 game versus Scotland at Twickenham.

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“It looks relatively bad, possibly requiring an operation. That is about as far as I can say, ” admitted Baxter during a virtually-held media briefing from the Exeter team hotel across the road from the Loftus Versfeld Stadium. “I believe he is seeing a surgeon today. The surgeon will then give an indication of exactly what happens but at this stage, we have got to say it is relatively bad.

“I don’t want to be kind of flippant and go it’s going to be ten weeks, twelve weeks, eight weeks. We are assessing that but you are not going to see him running around in the next three or four weeks.”

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Reflecting on how the injury happened in the second half last Saturday at Sandy Park, Baxter continued: “If you look at the mechanism of the injury it’s pretty awkward. He ends up kind of half-breaking through a tackle and someone is doing that classic falling on the back of his legs and it kind of ends up with his ankles crossed and one foot twists underneath him. It’s just one of those typical syndesmotic injuries.”

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How has Cowan-Dickie reacted to this latest injury setback? “He was very, very annoyed on Saturday evening as you can imagine,” added the Exeter director of rugby. “I sat with him in the physio room with the medical staff, his ankle was swelling. Obviously, he was massively looking forward to coming over here, to experience being over here (in South Africa) with the club.

“He was really looking forward to getting involved in a big game – the Heineken Cup means a lot to him. The truth is he is a really good guy who wants to have a big impact at the end of this season with it being the season where he is now leaving. A lot of that really bothered him but having said that, if there is a guy who can come back on time from an injury it does tend to be Luke.

“Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of the season left for him but immediately now we have got to get things done very quickly so we can get that rehab down significantly so that he doesn’t miss too much more of this season.”

Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg was also left behind in England to tend to the heel injury that has sidelined him from the Exeter XV since December 24. “Because we had to announce the group and wanted to make sure with the limited numbers we were as strong as we could when we came over here, he did a fitness test on Saturday pre-game and still couldn’t run at speed or couldn’t put any distance as his heel was still too sore,” explained Baxter.

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“He will be doing a kind of rehab programme this week while we are away and as soon as he is heel feels comfortable enough he will be declared fit to play again. If you watched the last game he played he carried and stumbled and banged his heel. It was as simple as that. It’s not like a ligament thing, not like it requires an operation. It’s just a big bang.”

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