England forwards coach Richard Cockerill admitted that Luke Cowan-Dickie’s injury was a blow, after it was revealed that the Exeter Chiefs hooker would miss the remainder of the Guinness Six Nations.
Cowan-Dickie, who had started two of England’s three games in the 2022 Championship, faces an extended spell on the sidelines with Exeter confirming that he will be absent for the foreseeable future and would require surgery on his knee.
Cockerill, who played 27 times at hooker for England between 1997 and 1999, admitted that losing such an experienced and important member of the team was a blow, but also believes that England have enough cover to cope while one of the vice-captains is out injured.
He said: “We’re disappointed for him, for Exeter and obviously ourselves. He’s a really important player to the team and a leader to the group as well.
“So it’s a bit of a blow to the team, but we’ve got cover and that’s the game isn’t it, players get injured, you have to deal with that and someone else gets an opportunity.
“Jamie (George) is a fantastic player; he’s proven that for the last ten years or so. He did a great job when he came on at the weekend and I’m sure he’s looking forward to doing that again.”
Cowan-Dickie sustained a knee injury in the first half of England’s 23-19 win over Wales, giving Jamie George plenty of time to impress at Twickenham, while it is likely that another Jamie who impressed – Jamie Blamire, will return to the matchday 23 after his performances in the Autumn Nations Series and in the July Test matches against USA and Canada, scoring a hat-trick against the latter.
Cockerill was able to give positive news from the England camp about two other forwards however, saying that Tom Curry, captain for the opening two matches of the Championship, is set to recover from the concussion picked up against Wales, while Cowan-Dickie’s teammate Jonny Hill has also returned to full training after missing the opening three matches.
“Tom (Curry) is going through normal return to play protocols, as any player would, so we expect him to come through that and be ready for training next week,” said Cockerill.
“And Jonny Hill has taken full part in training both today and yesterday, so positive news on him, and that’s exactly where they’re at.”
England host Ireland at Twickenham next weekend in a massive clash between two sides still in the hunt for the title, but both know that defeat would almost certainly be the end of Championship winning dreams.
Cockerill believes that Ireland will represent a stern test when they visit HQ and acknowledges that they will be England’s biggest challenge yet.
He said: “They’re a very good side aren’t they. They play a really good style of rugby, they’re very physical, the way their forward pack go about their business and their backs have been impressive.
“They’re a very good side, and one to be well respected, so we’re looking forward to the game, but we know it’s going to be a step up from what we’ve played so far.”