International rugby players are dropping like flies. This isn’t news to those who follow the game as the increased player workloads, plus the ever-increasing size of the players, seems to mean that no national coach is ever picking from a full deck. The November Tests aren’t even here yet and we still have a couple more weekends of club play to go before the Barbarians take on New Zealand, but there are already several stars that have ruled themselves out of contention through injury.
It would not be at all surprising if a second wave of players became unavailable after this weekend’s European action. For now though, here are five of the major names that will miss out this autumn:
Greig Laidlaw – Scotland
It is a fractured ankle suffered in the Champions Cup that will keep the Clermont Auvergne scrum-half out of Scotland’s games against Samoa, Australia, and New Zealand.
This is the latest injury setback for the Scotland captain who has not played for his country since tearing ankle ligaments against France back in the Six Nations. It’s likely that either Henry Pyrgos or Ali Price will deputise for their skipper against two of the Southern Hemisphere’s best.
Beyond the issue at scrum-half this creates, Scotland are also looking at a massive leadership void. Stand-in captain John Barclay – a player who has proved to be an accomplished leader – is a doubt for the Tests himself with an ongoing concussion problem. If Barclay cannot make it back in time for these matches, then the Scotland squad will be down two of their most influential players on the pitch.
George North – Wales
It was a bad weekend for Wales winger George North. The big winger had to come off as his Northampton team was heavily defeated by Saracens in the Champions Cup. Tests later revealed that North has damaged his PCL and that the knee injury will keep him out for six to eight weeks.
While it is undoubtedly another blow for a player who saw himself fall down the pecking order during the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand, North is probably fortunate that the ligament he injured in his knee isn’t one that will sideline him for the rest of the season. Warren Gatland loses one of his big mismatches in the back line and a player that the All Blacks have had problems dealing with in the past.
Manu Tuilagi & Ben Te’o – England
Eddie Jones suddenly looks to be lacking powerful ball carriers in the midfield, with both Manu Tuilagi (out) and Ben Te’o (doubtful) seemingly out for the Autumn. Tuilagi’s absence has been clear for a while after he injured himself in Leicester’s opening Aviva Premiership game. With this in mind, Jones could have done without Te’o limping off as Worcester beat Brive in the Challenge Cup over the weekend.
The official line is that Te’o has a “syndesmosis injury of his ankle” and it has yet to be determined if the injury will require surgery or if it will be managed in some other way. The way Jones likes England to play he needs a big carrier at 13 to offset the skill and guile of Owen Farrell in the No. 12 shirt. With two of his big bangers out injured it will be interesting to see who Jones thinks is worthy of a place in his midfield.
Nehe Milner-Skudder – New Zealand
It is not just the Northern Hemisphere coaches that are having their squad selections disrupted by injury. All Blacks utility back – and one of the most exciting players in world rugby – Nehe Milner-Skudder will miss the November Tests after having surgery on his shoulder. The procedure will see Milner-Skudder miss at least six months of action after he was injured in New Zealand’s game against the Springboks earlier this month.
Milner-Skudder is an electrifying talent, albeit one that is becoming labelled as injury prone. He missed the entirety of 2016 with a shoulder problem and was out for three months earlier this season with a foot fracture. The Kiwis have a plethora of talent in their back line, so finding a capable winger to come into the side and replace Milner-Skudder will be no problem. Perhaps this could be a chance for Julian Savea to end his tumultuous 2017 season on a high?
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