Wood cleared, as England consider changes

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 20:32
Large tom wood injured 800

SIX NATIONS SPOTLIGHT: England flank Tom Wood has been passed fit to play in Saturday's Six Nations match away to Wales, but the title-holders could yet alter their back row line-up.

Wood suffered a shoulder injury in Grand Slam champions England's opening 19-16 win at home to France last Saturday and left Twickenham with his arm in a sling.  

The 30-year-old Northampton loose forward hasn't trained since but is expected to take part in a practice session on Thursday - when coach Eddie Jones is due to name his side to play Wales.

"Tom's hurt his shoulder and is in modified training to protect him, but he's still up for selection this weekend," England defence coach Paul Gustard said Wednesday.

"Wednesday evening is when we meet to make our final selection calls. That's when we'll decide what is our best [matchday] 23."

If Wood is not in the starting XV that will leave England fielding a novice back row already without the injured duo of star No.8 Billy Vunipola and former captain Chris Robshaw.

Harlequins flank Jack Clifford is back in contention after missing the France opener with a chest injury and could now replace Wood on the openside.

But should he join inexperienced No.8 Nathan Hughes and blindside flank Maro Itoje, who has spent most of his England career as a lock, the loose trio will only have four caps between them in their starting positions.

By contrast, Wales could pick Taulupe Faletau, former captain Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric, who have 147 back row caps between them.

England veteran back row James Haskell is set to be on the bench once again as he makes his way back to full fitness following a toe injury.

"We've got a few options. Whichever back row we go for in the end will be competitive and we think will be the right 23 for Wales," Gustard said.

"Obviously Tom's got a lot of caps, but I think it's important, as we've said from February 2016, that week by week we'll pick the best 23 for the next game.

"We said last week about Maro, the number on your back puts you in a certain position at the set piece.

"After that you're a rugby player and for anyone in the back five of the scrum that means tackling, cleaning out and for some of them to carry.

"Jack can do all those things whether he's got a six, seven or eight on his back."

Agence France-Presse

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