Courtney Lawes out of England squad after taxing weekend for Steve Borthwick’s team

Courtney Lawes left Northampton Saints' game last weekend with a calf injury
©David Howlett

Experienced lock forward Courtney Lawes and uncapped hooker George McGuigan have been forced to withdraw from the England after picking up injuries over the weekend.

Northampton Saints’ Lawes limped off with a calf injury in his club’s home Heineken Champions Cup loss to Stade Rochelais, while Gloucester’s McGuigan sustained a knee injury after scoring two tries in the side’s 26-17 win over Bordeaux-Begles.

In Lawes, England head coach Steve Borthwick loses a player with 95 caps to his name, while McGuigan was due to compete with Saracens’ Jamie George and Harlequins’ Jack Walker for a regular spot in the matchday 23.

In their place, Lawes’ club teammate David Ribbans has been called up by Borthwick, while three-cap Bath hooker Tom Dunn replaces McGuigan.

The England squad announced by Borthwick a week ago were due to meet at Pennhill Park on Monday, and there is the potential for more changes following an abrasive weekend of continental action for England’s internationals.

In the warm-up for Saracens’ clash with Edinburgh on Sunday afternoon, loosehead prop Mako Vunipola was forced to withdraw from the squad and in the club’s 20-14 loss, Jamie George was concussed.

Sustaining the injury when trying to tackle Luke Crosbie, 72-cap George originally retook to the field before being replaced at half-time. 

Removed from the action by the match doctor, the hooker will be stood down for a minimum of 12 days according to World Rugby rules for players with a history of concussion.

That stand down period means that George may not be available to play for England until the day before their Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland to start the Guinness Six Nations.

In addition to Vunipola and George, there is added concern as Elliot Daly was also forced off as a result of injury. Between the Saracens trio, there is the potential for 203 England caps to be wiped from the squad, while Lawes’ absence adds another 95 to that tally.

Just a week ago, Borthwick coasted of having over 1,000 caps among his ranks for the Six Nations. Now with nearly 300 caps missing from the group that gathered on Monday in Surrey, it will certainly offer a headache for England’s new head coach as Daly and Vunipola continued to be assessed.

With a short space of time to prepare for the Six Nations, as well as just nine games before the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, it makes an already tough challenge all the harder for the side that steps out onto the field.

That need for preparation is something first and foremost in many people’s mind as England’s short runway to stepping out on the field under new management grows ever shorter.

A week ago, Borthwick stated that he had changed his team’s preparation plans for the Six Nations. This includes the cancellation of a training camp in Portugal, as well as a fallow week trip to France.

All of these annexed trips were organised by sacked England head coach, Eddie Jones, before his departure from the setup last December following a first losing calendar year since 2008.