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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
François Trinh-Duc suffered a broken arm during France’s win over Samoa last November, ruling the Toulon playmaker out of the Six Nations.
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.
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.
Following a series of impressive displays for Clermont, much was expected of Wesley Fofana until he ruptured his achilles tendon against the Exeter Chiefs.
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.
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.
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.