Injuries threaten England's Slam bid
March 11, 2013
Geoff Parling is an injury concern ahead of Saturday's game © PA Photos
England have confirmed that Ben Morgan will miss Saturday's Grand Slam decider with Wales while they are also facing an anxious wait over Geoff Parling, Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes' fitness.
Morgan has missed three of England's four matches to date after injuring his ankle in their Six Nations opener against Scotland. In his place, Tom Wood started at No.8 against Ireland, France and Italy and should keep the shirt for Saturday's showdown in Cardiff.
"Ben will stay at Gloucester this week," Stuart Lancaster confirmed. "We knew his ankle would take six to eight weeks and he won't make it in time."
But it is in the locks where the England management will be sweating. Launchbury injured his elbow against Italy and reports suggested that he left Twickenham with his arm in a sling. Lawes picked up a knock to his arm while Parling injured his shoulder. Launchbury and Parling have started all four of England's matches in the championship and Lancaster is "optimistic" that the duo will be fit for their trip to Wales.
There is better news for England regarding Owen Farrell. He missed their win over Italy due to a thigh injury he picked up against France in round three but Lancaster has confirmed that the fly-half is "available for selection" ahead of Saturday's match.
Lancaster will now hope that England re-find the same sort of form they showed against the All Blacks in December after they struggled against Italy. And Lancaster is adamant that they have much to do ahead of Saturday's clash.
"We have had a chance to review the game and there were lots of areas we were pleased with, but I wouldn't call it a blessing in disguise," Lancaster said. "I'm not of the mindset as a coach that I'd want to not get areas right in order to get ourselves in the right place to play a game. We've definitely got plenty to work on."
Lancaster believes the pressure-cooker environment of the Millennium Stadium, with England playing for the Grand Slam and Wales the title, will serve as ideal preparation for the rivals' group clash at the 2015 World Cup.
"It's a massive game because of the context of the result, which is huge for both teams," he said. "We're a young team and a lot of our players haven't played there before, so going to that type of environment is exactly the test we want.
"It's a couple of years until 2015 and we know that we've got Wales in what will be a big high-pressure game. For a team to get that type of experience now and go up there and try to win a Grand Slam will be a special occasion."
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