England face fresh injury concerns ahead of their crucial Six Nation clash with Wales on Saturday with the revelation that Tom Wood is suffering from a shoulder problem and is a doubt for the trip to Cardiff.
Despite being named in head coach Eddie Jones’ squad, it has being reported by ESPN that the Northampton flanker has not trained all week and is a fitness doubt.
Should the 30-year-old fail to recover from the knock he picked up in England’s 19-16 defeat of France last weekend, Jones could be forced to field an experimental and inexperienced back-row, with Maro Itoje continuing at blindside flanker alongside Nathan Hughes at No.8 and Jack Clifford, who would likely replace Wood at openside.
Between them they have only amassed four international caps as a back-row combination, where their Welsh counterparts, Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau, can collectively boast over 140 Wales caps.
News of Wood’s injury doubts further compound the resource problems faced by Jones as only on Monday it was announced that George Kruis was set to under surgery for a knee injury, putting an end to his Six Nations for 2017.
With Chris Robshaw and Billy Vunipola already all but ruled out of the tournament through injury, Jones is facing something of a crisis in the his normally formidable pack.
Wales are not without their own injury concerns however. Faletau is currently in a race against time to be fit for the England, with a knee injury keeping him out of action in recent weeks. A spot on the bench might be the best he can hope for at this time.
In what could well be the tournament defining game in this edition of the Six Nations, whichever side emerges victorious from the Principality Stadium could well be lifting the trophy come March 18th.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
This week’s edition of The Oval Office, we discuss all things Six Nations with George Hook, Paul Williams from Rugby World magazine and former Ireland u-20 international Adam McBurney.