England’s so-called injury crisis may be lengthening bookies’ odds for a repeat Grand Slam, but it is causing little harm in the medium-term.
Eddie Jones’s team can still win the tournament in the absence of some of their regulars, although it will certainly be a greater feat with Ireland confident and France having all the class and potential to prove a monumentally slippery first-round banana skin.
Current focus seems to be locked on the loosehead prop position.
There is no Mako Vunipola, which is a shame because he is brilliant.
Joe Marler has a fractured leg bone, but Jones, who names his squad for the championship later this week, can still call upon Ellis Genge, whose performances for Leicester Tigers continue to bruise.
If Genge is crocked in the forthcoming weeks – perhaps during an ill-timed wrestling session the day after a Champions Cup fixture, given England’s recent history of losing players to extra-curricular sporting activities – then Matt Mullan can fill the gap.
And if Wasps’ Mullan decided to go on an Alex Corbisiero-style permanent sabbatical then Jones could contact Alex Waller of Northampton Saints to ask whether he would be keen to reacquaint himself with the Red Rose.
Alternatively, Bath’s Max Lahiff or Nathan Catt could well be keen for a trot at Twickenham.
If they were not, Wasps’ Simon McIntyre might consider the honour despite feeling somewhat aggrieved to receive one of those last minute invites. We have all been there.
At the glamorous back-end of the scrum, Billy Vunipola and Chris Robshaw are out; Maro Itoje and Nathan Hughes are in. Things could be worse.
Even if the men in white slip up in what will inevitably be a more competitive tournament than the last, the ever-deepening pool of young English prospects will have progressed immeasurably.
Champions' mentality: an unquantifiable quality
What happens when multiple teams possess a “champions’ mentality”?
With the knock-out rounds of the European Champions Cup not far away, Wasps vividly exhibited their attributes as they executed multiple phases in the final moments of Saturday’s fixture against Toulouse, before scrum half Dan Robson sealed a less than likely 17-14 victory.
However, Wasps are not alone. Saracens have had the mindset of champions for the last few seasons; Munster, hit by the premature passing of coach Anthony Foley, have found it as their emotions have reminded them of their motivations; and Glasgow are well on the way to piecing together its ingredients.
This unquantifiable quality is little more than a strong self belief, but it becomes the deciding factor in close matches where doubt has a strong tendency to undo.
The final rounds of the Champions Cup look set to decide whose champions’ mentality is the most resolute.