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The round one Six Nations Injured XV

By Liam Heagney
England's Courtney Lawes (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

The 2023 Guinness Six Nations is all set to kick off in Cardiff on Saturday afternoon, with matches in London and Rome following over the course of the round one weekend. However, away from the action, spare a thought for this stellar list of Injured XV Six Nations players who won’t be playing:

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Six Nations Injured XV
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
The Welsh veteran was chosen to start against Ireland having been named by Warren Gatland as the No15 on Tuesday. However, a back spasm ruled him out on Thursday, his place in the starting line-up instead going to Liam Williams. Elliot Daly is another absentee. The Saracens full-back seriously damaged a hamstring versus Edinburgh on January 22 and a 12-week rehab scuppered his selection in Steve Borthwick’s England squad.

14. Darcy Graham (Scotland)
Scored four tries in four Autumn Nations Series starts but hasn’t made the start line for Scotland’s Six Nations campaign due to a medial collateral ligament knee injury sustained in an early December club match for Edinburgh in the URC.

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13. Henry Slade (England)
Call it bad karma. A red card sustained on Champions Cup duty for Exeter on January 14 in Pretoria could have seen him miss the start of the Six Nations through suspension. Instead, that harsh sending-off was rescinded at his disciplinary hearing, freeing him to play in the following weekend’s match versus Castres. It was here, though, that Slade picked up the hip injury that ruled him out of the England squad as the problem didn’t recover sufficiently in time.

12. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
It’s been an injury-hit season for the Irish midfielder, high-profile woe that began when a hamstring problem meant he had to surrender the No12 jersey to face South Africa the day before the game. He then pulled up lame in the opening minutes the following week versus Fiji and his winter soon went from bad to worse due to him needing a wrist operation. France’s Jonathan Danty is another marked absent this weekend following the New Year’s Eve knee injury sustained with La Rochelle.

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11. Gabin Villiere (France)
The Toulon winger lit up last year’s French charge towards the Grand Slam, scoring four tries in his four starts, but that momentum has since hit the buffers with two ankle operations and a hand problem restricting him to just two games this term for his club and none with France. Encouragingly, that second appearance came just last weekend versus Pau, resulting in his immediate call-up to the France squad but he has since suffered another setback with the ankle.

10. Paolo Garbisi (Italy)
Italy named the out-half in their Six Nations in the hope that he would fully recover from the knee problem sustained in December with Montpellier, but it hasn’t come right in time and Tommaso Allan will wear No10 on Sunday in Rome.

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9. Maxime Lucu (France)
The bench backup to Antoine Dupont during all five French matches in last year’s championship, he started the final match of their November series versus Japan. However, he has been injured since last month’s Bordeaux trip to the Durban-based Sharks in the Champions Cup.

1. Ivan Nemer (Italy)
The Italian prop isn’t an injury absentee but with the general health of looseheads across the Six Nations in good nick apart from France’s Jean-Baptiste Gros, we have improvised to fill this position and it goes to Nemer, the Benetton player who has been banned until the end of June for the racist secret Santa gift he gave in December to Cherif Traore, his club and country colleague.

2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (England)
There are multiple names to pencil in here. Aside from Cowan-Dickie, whose ankle injury with Exeter last month ruled him out of the entire tournament, France backup Peato Mauvaka (hand) is also missing as is Ireland’s Ronan Kelleher (hamstring) and Wales’ Dewi Lake (knee).

3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
Much like his club and country colleague Henshaw, it has so far been a miserable injury-hit 2022/23 for the Irish tighthead who has suffered a sequence of setbacks. The latest – his calf – means he missed his team’s opener in Wales, with his position going to Finlay Bealham, an alternative who has only started four times in his 27-cap career.

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4. Cameron Woki (France)
The lock has become so important to France in recent times, starting in all their big matches in 2021/2022 and also the recent Autumn Nations Series. However, a broken wrist sustained last month when playing for Racing versus Harlequins has now stopped that impressive run.

5. David Sisi (Italy)
The second row may no longer be a regular Italian starter, coming off the bench in five of his past six appearances, but he won’t be around to add ballast as a replacement in his team’s upcoming matches following December surgery in Wales on his right ankle following an injury when playing for Zebre.

6. Courtney Lawes (England)
It has not been the best of times of late for Lawes. Concussion sidelined him from England’s four-game Autumn Nations Series and now a calf injury has ruled him out of the start of the Six Nations.

7. Tom Curry (England)
A hamstring tear sustained last month on Gallagher Premiership duty with Sale in London has sidelined the England back-rower until round three at a minimum, but there has been a silver lining as the injury opened the door for his twin brother Ben to be called up and he will start versus Scotland.

8. Toa Halafihi (Italy)
A starter in every Italian game in last year’s championship, he seriously damaged a hamstring when featuring as a sub in the November win over Australia.

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N
Nickers 1 hours ago
'One of the poorest All Blacks performances I've seen in a long time'

Extreme hyperbole from Biggar. NZ have played far, far worse than that. The 20/21 team was by far the worst of the professional era. Losses to Argentina, shambolic game against Japan and hapless NH tour of 2021. But even that dreadful team were able to put 50 points on Wales and beat them by 38. Much easier to “tear them to pieces” from the commentary box apparently. Ignored by virtually everyone is how good the ABs defence was. That is why England didn’t win, they simply could not score enough points against that defence. The ABs attack was very average, but their defence was world class and that’s what won them the game. Any Wales team that Biggar has ever played for would have found themselves in the same situation and would definitely not have scored tries from those cross kicks. That ABs team beats Biggar’s best Wales team 31 - 13. England’s attack was as good as it was allowed to be by a superior defence. Hats off to Hansen, he has picked up where MacLeod finally got the ABs to last year and not missed a step. England’s attack will be a big worry for Borthwick. They have not established a reliable, repeatable way to break teams down and score points. They were held to some very low scores by average teams in the 6N, and again here didn’t cross 20 points on either occasion. If I was an England fan I would be crying out for a new attack coach. Borthwick would do well to cast his net now, a poor home winter with a faltering attack will start the calls for his job.

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T
Thomas 1 hours ago
'Champions get up when they can't': Matt Williams weighs in on Ireland's win over Boks

While both teams have their particular positives, I think neither team should rest on their laurels. South Africa managed to tie a series against an uncomfortable opponent, that has had their numbers for a couple of years, while trial-running a completely new attack system, that still doesn’t work properly. But one aspect of “it doesn’t work yet” is a transition from attack to defense in broken play, as the Boks leaked three tries in two matches this way, and lost the second match as a result. Ireland avoided a series loss in a hostile environment, and in spite of many key player injuries, while managing to significantly improve and tighten their defense in game 2 (which demonstrates the breadth of their squad as well as their ability to adjust and recalibrate). At the same time, their own attack hadn’t amounted to much, either (save from exploiting the gaps in the Boks’ new system, gaps that won’t be there anymore in a few months’ time), and they haven’t found an answer to the Boks scrum, which almost costed them the 2nd match, if it hadn’t been for pretty much unrepeatable Frawley heroics. In the end, there isn’t much that separates those two sides … which is exactly what we knew before the series already. Back to the drawing board for both teams, the work only just begins for two teams with the highest ambition. Start of a cycle alright.

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