Wales injury crisis eases ahead of England clash

Colin Newboult

George North could be in line to earn his 100th Wales cap against England in the Six Nations after recovering from an eye issue suffered versus Ireland.

The injury situation has improved considerably for the Welsh after Wayne Pivac was without a quarter of his original 36-man squad through injuries or suspension for the appointment with Scotland 10 days ago.

Players like fit-again backs North, Jonathan Davies and Johnny Williams are set to be in the selection mix, and wing Josh Adams is available again after serving a two-match ban for breaching coronavirus protocols.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny is going through return to play protocols after failing a head injury assessment at Murrayfield, with only scrum-half Tomos Williams (hamstring) currently ruled out.

Wing sensation

Wales’ injury issues have proved beneficial to some of their younger players, however, with wing sensation Louis Rees-Zammit taking his chance in the first XV.

The 20-year-old Gloucester speedster has made a spectacular start to his international career, scoring four tries in six Tests.

Three of those touchdowns came during Wales’ Six Nations victories over Ireland and Scotland, including a double at Murrayfield that nudged his team over the line as 25-24 winners.

If Wales topple England in Cardiff they will clinch the Triple Crown – a first major trophy of Pivac’s reign – and strengthen their Six Nations title hopes.

Rees-Zammit is sure to attract close attention from England, particularly defensively and under the high ball, while he looks set to line up opposite a familiar face in England try machine and his Gloucester team-mate Jonny May.

“Any threatening player is going to come with a huge tag on top of his head, so we are expecting (Rees-Zammit), among other players, to be targeted,” Wales assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys said.

“Louis has made massive improvements in his game, and he knows a lot of those English players, so with that comes a huge amount of pressure.

“But he has got a great temperament and we back him to deal with anything that comes his way.

“He’s great, he has just turned 20 and you can see how much he has grown up from the last Six Nations to this one.

“He is well aware of the work-ons – the amount of stuff he has got to do outside of scoring tries – and he is working very, very hard at doing that.”

Red cards are currently rugby union’s major talking point, with Wales seeing Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony and Scotland prop Zander Fagerson sent off against them for dangerous ruck clearouts, while there were similar sending-off episodes during last weekend’s Premiership action.

“Any contact with the head runs a high risk of red cards,” Humphreys said. “It’s something we have been aware of all the way through this tournament.

“You need to keep reminding of the ramifications of any head collisions. We work very hard at that in training to be technically as good as we can.

“It’s everything we were advised on before the tournament. Referees want to clamp down on it, especially with everything that goes with concussions, and we were aware of it from the off.

“It doesn’t surprise me that we are having that (run of red cards). We just have to make sure we are not on the receiving end of that.”

England will arrive at the Principality Stadium looking to make an impact on this season’s Six Nations after being beaten by Scotland and then producing a largely unconvincing performance in seeing off Italy.

“They are a world-class team,” Humphreys added.

“A couple of months ago, they were winning the Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup, so we are expecting a huge physical challenge.

“It’s a massive Test match with everything that goes with Wales versus England. We are expecting the very best version of England.”