England’s young centre Ollie Lawrence is suffering from a hip injury and is unavailable to face Wales in Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup game in Llanelli. The 21-year-old may also struggle to feature in the remainder of the tournament, leaving the head coach Eddie Jones with another midfield conundrum to solve.
Lawrence is already seen as a potential long-term replacement for Manu Tuilagi, also sidelined with a torn achilles tendon. With both now ruled out, Jones has the option of reuniting Owen Farrell and Henry Slade at 12 and 13 and starting George Ford at fly-half or, alternatively, reverting to the combination of Slade and Jonathan Joseph who were paired together against Italy in Rome.
With Anthony Watson back from injury in place of Ollie Thorley, England are not short of options on the wing but they will miss the directness that Lawrence brings, both for his club Worcester and now the national team.
“Ollie has a little niggle around his abductor and hip area,” said England’s assistant coach John Mitchell. “It is nothing major but it is a niggle that is concerning him.” Mitchell, though, stresses that the player remains very much a part of England’s plans. “Ollie has huge potential as a centre. He is very talented in terms of running on to the ball and he has got exceptional ability to line break.”
IThere are also recalls for Joe Marler, Jack Willis and Luke Cowan-Dickie in a 25-man squad Neither the fit-again Marler nor Cowan-Dickie, in for Bath’s Tom Dunn, have featured for England this autumn, while Willis is preferred to Lewis Ludlam having been sent back to his club, Wasps, last week.
Competition in England’s back row is certainly hotting up, with Bristol’s Ben Earl itching for his first Test start. “I’m well aware that I’m yet to start a Test match and obviously that’s a massive goal of mine,” said the flanker.
“I think Eddie would be worried if I wasn’t saying I want to start a Test match. He wants to see a hunger in the group, he wants to see everyone striving to new levels to see where they can take their game. At the moment I’m probably not playing as well as Sam [Underhill] or Tom [Curry] so I’ve got to keep going with that and doing the job that I get given, whether that’s five minutes off the bench or 40 minutes off the bench.”