A decision on whether Courtney Lawes can play any further part in this season’s Guinness Six Nations is still awaited by England after the veteran forward fell over at training on Wednesday, ruling him out of selection for this Saturday’s round three game away to Wales.

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Lawes was expected to be named in the starting England line-up at the Principality Stadium. He had even conducted media interviews on Wednesday where he had spoken about the prospect of his battle chasing Dan Biggar, his clubmate at Northampton.  

However, Lawes went on to injury himself at England training later that day, paving the way for Mark Wilson to return to the starting line-up and for Jones to include the uncapped 19-year-old George Martin on the bench. The Wilson for Lawes switch was one of two Jones made to England’s starting XV, Jamie George also resuming at hooker following a rare start there versus Italy for Luke Cowan-Dickie who now returns to the bench. 

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Nigel Owens guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload with Simon Zebo and Ryan Wilson

Explaining what happened to Lawes, Jones said: “The first part of training yesterday [Wednesday] he slipped over. He felt something in his pec. We weren’t sure of the significance of the injury so he was scanned this morning [Thursday] at the first available time and unfortunately he has got a little bit of damage there that needs further diagnosis and checking which will be done over the next few days and we will have a clearer picture of his further participation in the tournament. 

“He has done some damage to the pec muscle. Sometimes they can be rather serious and sometimes they can be not so serious, so we just have to wait and see until we get further information.”

Jones continued by explaining what the loss of Lawes at blindside will mean for England, while he also trumpeted the inclusion of the teenage Martin on the bench. “Six, when we played Courtney there it’s more of a jumping, running role but normally if it’s not Courtney we have more of a workrate six which is Mark Wilson. A lot of defence, a lot of good clean-outs, be a bit of a glue player for the team.   

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“We have been watching him [Martin] since we got him into camp this time last Six Nations, so we brought him in, had a look at him. Unfortunately, he had a medial ligament injury. He played a couple of games for his club after the lockdown, got a medial ligament and that ruled him out of participation in autumn. 

“But now he has been back playing for his club. He is very much an old fashioned six, a good defensive six, carries the ball hard and is also a lineout option and with time he may mature into being able to play lock as well.      

“He has got a good body and we are so lucky he has been well-coached by Steve Borthwick at the Tigers so he comes in with a really good work ethic, a good approach to his training and if he keeps working hard he is going to be a good player.”

With Wales two wins from two and England playing catch-up after an opening-round loss to Scotland, Jones reckoned there will be pressure on both teams in Cardiff and he expects the contest to close as has regularly been the case since he took charge of the English.

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“You get to the third game of the series for most teams it is a make-or-break game and both teams face similar pressure. There is nothing more exciting than a Wales-England game. Unfortunately, there are no fans but the intensity of the clash over the last four or five years, certainly the games I have been involved in the points difference I think is six. They always go down to the wire so the pressure is going to be on the referee to make the right decisions.

“Wales-England, it means a lot to both countries. They are always tough, tough games. This is the allure of the Six Nations, they are tight contests that go down to the last moment. We won one in 2017 basically on the bell and we had to win on the bell at Twickenham last year so we are expecting a similar sort of game. It’s the sort of game you have got to win not once but maybe two or three times. They will keep coming, we will keep coming. It’s going to be a great contest.”

Queried about Wales’ return to winning ways after a difficult first year under Wayne Pivac, Jones didn’t agree England’s rivals had endured a slump in 2020. “You guys [the media] called it a slump. They had a new coach. They were rebuilding after the World Cup. 

“They went through a transitional period which is normal in teams which is normal after they have had a successful period which they did under Gatland. They find their feet. Tactically they are probably a bit similar to what they were under Gatland than what they first stared under Wayne and they are a tough competitive team.” 

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