Injuries are inevitable in sports, but thwarting a chance for the best to compete on the biggest stage is no less disappointing for players, coaches and fans.
Ahead of the 2023 Six Nations, several people were removed from the squad by their respective national team head coaches due to injury.
While some are making it to the tournament, others should at least play a part in the next two months, but that’s looking at those who weren’t in the initial announcements due to injuries they received.
On Thursday, we reviewed players who were downplayed on purely selective grounds by their coaches, but now we’re moving to an injured XV and there’s some serious talent here.
Planet Rugby Injured XV
15 Henry Arundell (Britain): It took longer than expected to recover from an ankle injury he received in October, which would otherwise have been pretty certain for the England team despite a head coach change. Lightning-fast with incredible footwork, Arundell is truly an X-factor player we hope will shine at the Rugby World Cup. He may also play a role in the Six Nations later on, but that will largely depend on how Red Rose comes under new boss Steve Borthwick’s management.
14 Darcy Graham (Scotland): The Edinburgh driver was one of the stars of 2022 and looked set to play a major role during the Six Nations, but unfortunately will not be featured at the start of the tournament due to a knee issue. Gregor Townsend had stated a month ago that he hoped Graham would return for the final three games of the tournament, but no actual timeline was given for his return. Whether short-term or long-term, Scotland will miss the 25-year-old’s incomprehensibility and goal-scoring instincts, as they fit in nicely with the massive Duhan van der Merwe on the other wing.
13 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland): When available, Leinsterman is always available at 23, but has recently had a hard time taking the field. Henshaw was absent from most of the last Fall Nations Series and is still recovering from wrist surgery. Ireland had hoped to get him back at the start of the tournament, but with the unnamed pivot in the starting squad, the signs are not looking good. The 29-year-old brings energy and physicality to the offense, qualities the Irish would definitely be disappointed to lose despite being one of the best defenders in the game.
12 Jonathan Danty (France): A brutal blow for the centre, which is just starting to realize its enormous potential after solidifying its place alongside Fabien Galthie. Danty was fantastic in the last Six Nations, with his hard work and impressive breakdown work becoming a crucial component to Les Bleus’ success. However, La Rochelle’s knee injury in the Top 14 match against Perpignan means that he will not appear in any tournament.
11 Gabin Villiere (France): A long term absentee suffering from ankle problems although not far from returning. You forget how important the 27-year-old is to Galthie, given the steady brilliance of France, but the head coach is well aware of the quality he brings. In addition to his excellence on offense, Villiere is solid under high ball and excels in defense as a down-time threat. This is a position they have had a hard time filling properly, so France would be willing to take him straight back into the squad despite the lack of match time.
10 Paolo Garbisi (Italy): A cornerstone of the Azzurri offensive and a huge loss for head coach Kieran Crowley. While the Italians have improved under the New Zealander’s guidance, Garbisi’s lack may be crucial as they try to build on their victory over Wales last year. Tommaso Allan has options for the Harlequins in the half position where he has performed well, but none of them are in the class of the 22-year-olds. The quarterback can return to the tournament later, but the France and England matches will be deleted.
9 Maxim Luke (France): The Bordeaux-Begles man proved to be a reliable backup for Antoine Dupont, and his absence forced Galthie to rethink. Instead of being experienced, he summoned two outstanding youngsters, Leo Coly and 20-year-old Nolann Le Garrec. It’s an interesting move from the head coach, especially when Lucu has mastered seeing the game after Dupont has worked his magic. Coly and Le Garrec are excellent all-rounders, but do they have the control and composure to immediately succeed at Test level?
8 Tom Curry (Britain): Another who should return at some point in the competition but will be a major shortfall in the opening two games. Curry suffered a knee injury while playing for Sale and was excluded from England’s matches against Scotland and Italy. Fortunately for Borthwick, it’s not the hardest start they’ll ever have, especially given both games are at home, but Curry is one of the few truly top-notch players right now.
7 Rory Darge (Scotland): One of the stars debuting in 2022, injury has pretty much hindered this current campaign’s progress since its inception. Darge suffered an ankle problem in September and had surgery to correct the problem, which put him out of the early stages of Six Nations. The 22-year-old is running back and may return to the Six Nations later, but whether he will be ready for the rigors of Test rugby is another question.
6 Dan Lydia (Wales): He may be back row 35 but he is still a vital part of Wales’ plans and made his final Autumn Nations Series appearance. Although they have now changed their head coaches, Warren Gatland has always been a huge fan and there’s no doubt that if he was in enough form he would’ve had him on the roster. Lydiate does an incredible job of defense for Welsh, regularly taking down interceptors and would have enjoyed playing in the 37-man group with top players like Jac Morgan, Tommy Reffel and Justin Tipuric, along with experienced back lines.
5 Cameron Woki (France): Like Danty and Villiere, Woki is a key player in the layout and could change the fate of France as it enters this year’s competition. There’s no doubt that Les Bleus has incredible depth, but the people in question have X-factor quality and bring a unique skill set to the team. In Woki, the sheer athleticism and aerial flair he lacks in the front line make him a threat on the opposing formation ball. These injuries could be significant as the French try to defend their Six Nations crown.
4 Will Rowlands (Wales): After making his debut in 2020, the second-placed players soon became a key part of their squad, but will miss the tournament due to a shoulder injury he sustained at the Autumn Nations Series. An excellent line-up and a strong carry around the pitch, Gatland will no doubt appreciate the qualities presented to him over the next two months as Wales tries to get back on track.
3 Giosue Zilocchi (Italy): Injuries unfortunately hindered the narrow-minded person’s progress. Zilocchi seemed like a real talent during the 2020 Six Nations, and has also appeared in both the 2021 and 2022 editions of the competition, but has been absent for long. Prop has not played since signing for the London Irish ahead of the 2022/23 campaign, and the timeline for his return is uncertain.
2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (Britain): He’s the second major striker for England who will miss the start of the Six Nations and well be eliminated throughout the entire tournament. Cowan-Dickie has proven to be her first choice as a prostitute, after taking second place alongside Jamie George early in her international career. We could have another French player here, Peato Mauvaka, but Cowan-Dickie will be the bigger one, especially with England’s lack of depth in the position.
1 Jean-Baptiste Gros (France): He’s not the loose head to begin with – Cyril Baille has pretty much nailed that point – but Gros has proven his quality from the bench. The Toulon man, just 23 years old, has already made more than 20 appearances and provides set piece stability.
READ MORE: Six Nations: A star-studded XV player not selected for the tournament
Six Nations article: A star-studded XV, whose tournament prospects were hampered by injury, first appeared on Planetrugby.com.