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The Already Injured Six Nations XV

Since the dawn of professionalism, rugby has become an increasingly attritional game. Players are now bigger, quicker and stronger than ever before, which in turn has led to greater and more dangerous collisions.

In a study commissioned by the LNR (Ligue Nationale de Rugby) and FFR (Fédération Française de Rugby) cataloguing all of the injuries suffered by Top 14 players between August 2012 and June 2015, it was found the number of injuries had increased by 40% during that period.

Despite reducing the impact created by scrum engagements, it’s no longer uncommon to see an entire front-row unit being replaced before the hour mark. Indeed, the authors of the above study found that front rows accounted for 26% of all injuries sustained in the Top 14.

However, in spite of the attritional nature of the modern game and the resulting increase in injuries, The Telegraph recently reported that Aviva Premiership clubs are demanding the Six Nations be played over five consecutive weekends as opposed to its current duration of seven weeks.

Any such proposal is completely unrealistic, particularly after watching the hugely physical encounter between Wales and England on Saturday. Scotland too have been left counting the cost of their encounter with France, after Greig Laidlaw was ruled out of the remainder of the Championship, while concussion concerns hang over John Hardie, Fraser Brown, John Barclay and Alex Dunbar.

The result is that there now exists a substantial number of unavailable players. Although some were ruled out before the Championship kicked off, others have since picked up knocks over the course of the last two weeks.

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1. Mako Vunipola (England)

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 25: Mako Vunipola of England makes a break during the International Test match between the Australian Wallabies and England at Allianz Stadium on June 25, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Mako Vunipola has not featured for either England or Saracens since suffering a knee injury last December. Although he could yet feature in the Six Nations, Eddie Jones has not included the loosehead in his squad to face Italy.

2. Sean Cronin (Ireland)

Guinness Series, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 19/11/2016 Ireland vs New Zealand Ireland’s Sean Cronin dejected Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

 

Although Sean Cronin might play second fiddle to Rory Best, the Leinster hooker offered a great deal of impact when coming on to replace the Irish captain in the final quarter.

However, after suffering a hamstring injury in January, Cronin was ruled out of the Championship.

3. WP Nel (Scotland)

WP Nel

Prior to the Six Nations Championship, WP Nel was seen be many as a nailed on Lions tourist. However, after sustaining a knee injury during Edinburgh’s win over Harlequins, the South African-born tight head was replaced in the Scottish front row by the promising Zander Fagerson.

4. Luke Charteris (Wales)

South Africa v Wales - Quarter Final: Rugby World Cup 2015

Despite being hopeful that Luke Charteris would make a come back in time for Wales’ game with England, the big second row has yet to recover from a fractured hand. Worse still, apart from his hand injury, the big second row has been ruled out of Bath’s tie against Harlequins this weekend with a tight hamstring.

5. George Kruis (England)

George Kruis

Although England were hopeful George Kruis would be fit to play some part in England’s opening Six Nations fixture against France, it was subsequently reported that the second row would have to undergo surgery to repair knee ligament damage, thus ruling him out of the entire Championship.

6. Dan Lydiate (Wales)

Wales v South Africa - International Match

Dan Lydiate was ruled out for the remainder of the season after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury that required surgery against South Africa last December.

7. Chris Robshaw (England)

England v Wales - RBS Six Nations

Like Lydiate, Chris Robshaw was ruled out of the Six Nations long before the Championship kicked off after it was confirmed the former England captain would have to undergo surgery on his injured shoulder.

8. Billy Vunipola (England)

Australia v England

Despite sustaining a knee ligament injury during England’s win over Argentina last November, Billy Vunipola might yet be able to play some part in England’s Six Nations campaign. Whether or not he does so remains to be seen.

9. Greig Laidlaw (Scotland)

The RBS 6 Nations Rugby Round 2 Stade de France Paris 12/2/2017 France vs Scotland Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw after the match on crutches Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

After putting himself into Lions contention following his display against Ireland, Greig Laidlaw will have to sit out the remainder of the Championship after sustaining ankle ligiament damage in Paris last weekend.

10. François Trinh-Duc (France)

Scotland v France - RBS Six Nations

François Trinh-Duc suffered a broken arm during France’s win over Samoa last November, ruling the Toulon playmaker out of the Six Nations.

11. George North (Wales)

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 05: George North of Wales evades the attempted tackle from Leonardo Ghiraldini of Italy enroute to scoring his team's third try during the RBS Six Nations match between Italy and Wales at the Stadio Olimpico on February 5, 2017 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

After a great deal of speculation, it was finally confirmed that George North would not play any part in Wales’ defeat at the hands of England just three minutes before kick.

Although he is likely to make a return in time to face Scotland, North’s injury and the subsequent inclusion of Alex Cuthbert may have cost Wales the game.

12. Manu Tuilagi (England)

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 17: Manu Tuilagi of Leicester looks on from the sin bin after being shown the yellow card by referee Pascal Gauzere during the European Rugby Champions Cup match between Leicester Tigers and Munster at Welford Road on December 17, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Like many other players on this list, Manu Tuilagi was ruled out of the Championship before a ball had been kicked after suffering a knee injury against Saracens in January.

13. Wesley Fofana (France)

PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 19: Wesley Fofana of France gives instructions during the RBS Six Nations match between France and England at Stade de France on March 19, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images)

Following a series of impressive displays for Clermont, much was expected of Wesley Fofana until he ruptured his achilles tendon against the Exeter Chiefs.

14. Keelan Giles (Wales)

Wales Training Session

After scoring 11 tries in nine appearances for the Ospreys this season, Wales fans were excited at the prospect of 19-year-old Keelan Giles giving their side some cutting edge during the Six Nations.

However, the winger missed out on selection after pulling his hamstring in January. Nevertheless, Rob Howley might be in a position to unleash Giles before the end of the Championship.

15. Rob Kearney (Ireland)

Scotland v Ireland - RBS Six Nations

After coming under pressure from the likes of Simon Zebo and Tiernan O’Halloran, Rob Kearney found some form last November and retained his place in the Irish team.

Nevertheless, Joe Schmidt could be without his first choice full back after it was revealed that Kearney would have to undergo surgery on an injured bicep following Ireland’s win over Italy.

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Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena

On this week’s edition of The Oval Office podcast, we talk about the Irish back row with Niall Ronan and get the Scottish perspective from The Scrum Magazine’s David Arnott.

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