Six Nations: A star-studded XV whose tournament hopes have been hampered by injury

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Injuries are inevitable in sport but it is no less disappointing for the players, coaches and fans when the best around are denied the chance of competing on the biggest stage.

Ahead of the 2023 Six Nations, several individuals were omitted from the squad by their respective national team head coaches due to injury.

Some are out for the tournament while others should at least play some part over the next two months, but this looks at those who were absent in the initial announcements because of injuries they have picked up.

On Thursday, we went through the players that were snubbed by their coaches on purely selectorial grounds, but we now move on to an injured XV and there is some serious talent here.

Planet Rugby’s Injured XV

15 Henry Arundell (England): Has taken longer than expected to recover from an ankle injury picked up in October, otherwise would have been a pretty much certainty for the England squad, despite the change in head coach. Lightning fast with incredible footwork, Arundell really is an X-factor player that will hopefully shine in the Rugby World Cup. He could also play a part later on in the Six Nations but that very much depends on how the Red Rose go under new boss Steve Borthwick.

14 Darcy Graham (Scotland): The Edinburgh flyer was one of the stars of 2022 and looked set to play a key role during the Six Nations, but he will unfortunately be absent for the start of the tournament due to a knee issue. Gregor Townsend stated a month ago that he hoped Graham would be back for the final three matches of the tournament, but no real timescale has been given on his return. Whether it’s short or long-term, Scotland will miss the 25-year-old’s elusiveness and try-scoring instinct, while he dovetailed nicely with the gargantuan Duhan van der Merwe on the other wing.

13 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland): When fit, the Leinsterman is an ever-present in the 23 but he has struggled to get out on the field as of late. Henshaw did not feature in the majority of the recent Autumn Nations Series and is still recovering following wrist surgery. Ireland were hoping to have him back by the start of the tournament but the signs do not look good with the centre not named in the initial squad. The 29-year-old brings energy and physicality in attack, while he is one of the best defenders in the game, qualities the Irish will certainly be disappointed to lose.

12 Jonathan Danty (France): A cruel blow for the centre, who has just started to fulfil his immense potential after cementing his spot in Fabien Galthie’s side. Danty was superb in the last Six Nations with his hard running and impressive breakdown work becoming a crucial component for Les Bleus’ success. However, a knee injury sustained in La Rochelle’s Top 14 clash with Perpignan means he won’t take part in any of the tournament.

11 Gabin Villiere (France): A long-term absentee having suffered with ankle problems, although he is not far from returning. Given France’s consistent brilliance, you tend to forget how important the 27-year-old became to Galthie, but the head coach is well aware of the quality he brings. As well as his excellence on attack, Villiere is superb in defence by being solid under the high ball and a threat at the breakdown. It is a position they are struggling to properly fill, which is why France would be willing to bring him straight back into the squad despite the lack of game time.

10 Paolo Garbisi (Italy): The linchpin of the Azzurri attack and a big loss for head coach Kieran Crowley. With the Italians improving under the guidance of the New Zealander, the lack of Garbisi could be crucial as they seek to build on last year’s victory over Wales. They have options in the fly-half position, with Tommaso Allan performing well for Harlequins, but none are of the class of the 22-year-old. The playmaker may be back later on in the tournament but the France and England matches are write-offs.

9 Maxime Lucu (France): The Bordeaux-Begles man has proven to be a reliable back-up to Antoine Dupont and his absence has forced a rethink for Galthie. Instead of going for experienced, he has called up two outstanding youngsters in the form of Leo Coly and 20-year-old Nolann Le Garrec. It is an interesting move from the head coach, especially when Lucu became a specialist at seeing the game out after Dupont had weaved his magic. Coly and Le Garrec are brilliant all-round players, but do they have the control and composure to be a success at Test level straightaway?

8 Tom Curry (England): Another that should return at some point in the competition but who will be a significant miss in the opening two matches. Curry injured his hamstring while playing for Sale and is out of England’s encounters against Scotland and Italy. Fortunately for Borthwick, it is not the toughest start they could have, especially with both of the games being at home, but Curry is one of their few genuinely world-class players at the moment.

7 Rory Darge (Scotland): One of the breakout stars in 2022, injury has rather hampered his progress since the start of this current campaign. Darge sustained an ankle issue in September and underwent surgery to correct the problem, which has ruled him out of the early stages of the Six Nations. The 22-year-old is back running and could return later in the Six Nations, but whether he will be deemed ready for the rigours of Test rugby is another question.

6 Dan Lydiate (Wales): The back-row may be 35 but he is still a vital part of Wales’ plans and featured in the recent Autumn Nations Series. Although they have now changed head coaches, Warren Gatland has always been a big fan and would have no doubt named him in the squad had he been fit enough. Lydiate does an incredible defensive job for the Welsh, chopping down tacklers with regularity, and with the likes of fetchers Jac Morgan, Tommy Reffell and Justin Tipuric in the 37-man group, they would have enjoyed playing alongside the experienced back-row.

5 Cameron Woki (France): Like Danty and Villiere, Woki is a key player in the set-up and could alter France’s fortunes heading into this year’s competition. No doubt Les Bleus have incredible depth, but those aforementioned individuals have that X-factor quality and bring a unique skill set to the team. With Woki, it’s the sheer athleticism, something they lack in the front five, and his aerial ability, which makes him a threat on opposition lineout ball. These injuries could well be important as the French attempt to defend their Six Nations crown.

4 Will Rowlands (Wales): After making his debut in 2020 the second-row has quickly become an important part of their squad, but he will miss the tournament due to a shoulder injury suffered in the Autumn Nations Series. Excellent in the lineout and a potent carrier around the field, Gatland would no doubt like those qualities available to him over the next two months as Wales attempt to get back on track.

3 Giosue Zilocchi (Italy): Injuries have unfortunately hampered the tighthead’s progress. Zilocchi looked a real talent during the 2020 Six Nations and also featured in both the 2021 and 2022 editions of the competition, but is a long-term absentee. The prop has not played for London Irish since signing for them ahead of the 2022/23 campaign and the timescale of his return is unclear.

2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (England): A second important forward for England who will miss the start of the Six Nations and could well be out for the whole tournament. After playing second fiddle to Jamie George for the early part of his international career, Cowan-Dickie established himself as the first choice hooker. We could have had another France player here in Peato Mauvaka, but Cowan-Dickie will be the bigger miss, especially with England’s lack of depth in the position.

1 Jean-Baptiste Gros (France): He is not the starting loosehead – Cyril Baille very much has that spot nailed down – but Gros has proven his quality from the bench. Still a youngster at the age of 23, the Toulon man has already earned over 20 caps and provides stability in the set-piece.

READ MORE: Six Nations: A XV of star-studded players who have not been selected for the tournament

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