Injuries have been the main story leading into the 2018 tournament, so Sam Tremlett has put together an Injured XV that include some of the best players in the world.
Front Row – WP Nel, Ross Ford, Zander Fagerson
As you’d expect, Scottish players dominate in this area because there are simply so many of them out. Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has lost at least six of his finest front-rowers. WP Nel has a broken arm, Ford has a pectoral injury, and Fagerson is out with a foot problem.
Second Row – Jake Ball, Richie Gray
Welshman Ball is definitely out for the entire tournament after dislocating his shoulder during the autumn Internationals last year. He required surgery and will likely be out for the rest of the season. Scotland and Toulouse lock Gray is more questionable. A long standing back problem has been rearing its ugly head sporadically of late, and a calf issue has also meant he is ruled out of the opener against Wales.
Back Row – Sam Warburton, Sean O’Brien, Billy Vunipola
These three players, if playing together, would create nightmares at the break down and generate good front foot ball with their powerful marauding runs. Warburton and Vunipola in particular, have had terrible luck regarding injuries recently. It feels as if Warburton has long-standing knee problems and Vunipola had only just recovered from a four month lay-off due to a knee issue, when he fractured his arm playing for Saracens in the Champions Cup. Both will miss the whole tournament.
However, we could be seeing Sean O’Brien at some point, depending on his recovery from a hip injury.
(A brief mention should also go towards Jamie Heaslip and Taulupe Faletau who are both set to miss time during the six Nations but narrowly miss out on our XV)
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Scrum-Half – Rhys Webb
Webb, the most recent Welsh Lion to be ruled out of the tournament, has injured his knee and will not play any part in the tournament. To top off the bad news the WRU introduced a 60-cap selection rule for foreign-based players, coinciding with his lucrative move to Toulon. In terms of our XV, the British and Irish Lion would give quick ball to the backs whilst also taking control of the all-star forwards above.
Fly-Half – Dan Biggar
You could possibly have Camille Lopez at ten, but we have gone for Biggar. The feisty fly-half showed his mettle on the recent Lions tour and can put a stranglehold on games. He guided Wales to victory against South Africa in the autumn with two clever dink kicks, as well as a charge down, which all lead to tries. He is set to miss at least three weeks due to a shoulder injury.
Centres – Henry Slade, Jonathan Davies
Hurt during his Exeter side’s loss to Glasgow during the Champions Cup, Henry Slade withdrew from the England squad due to a shoulder injury. After starting two of the three autumn Tests, Slade was in the mix for England’s midfield but his absence created yet more problems for Eddie Jones.
Alongside Slade we have Lions Man of the Series, Jonathan Davies. A foot injury picked up against Australia has ruled the 13 out of the tournament. An intelligent kicking game combined with an outside break makes him more than dangerous when going forward. And on the defensive end, he relishes hunting for tackles. Beaded Barrett said Davies was the player he most admired outside the All Blacks. Praise indeed.
Back Three – Elliot Daly, Liam Williams, Semesa Rokoduguni
Daly, who scored the winning try against Wales last year, will not be reproducing any heroics in 2018 after he suffered a serious ankle injury whilst playing for Wasps. His speed is electric, and he has a howitzer of a boot. You’re likely to remember Daly’s absence whenever England have any penalties around the 50 metre mark.
On the other side of the field we have Semesa Rokoduguni. A powerful runner, the Fijian is recovering from surgery on his shoulder so he is poised to miss a big chunk of the tournament – if he is to be used by Eddie Jones at all.
Liam Williams is another terrible loss to a Welsh side down on its luck at the moment. An abdominal injury has been limiting his training and game time and it doesn’t appear to be responding to treatment. His injury could even require an operation. One of the most unpredictable back-three players in the world, his devastating attacking ability, particularly from full-back, has caused problems to some of the finest players in the world. For many years to come we’ll be talking about ho Williams sparked Sean O’Brien’s wonder try against the All Blacks in the first Lions Test.