Richard Wigglesworth has suggested that Steve Borthwick will have a full squad to choose from – bar the suspended Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola – when he names his England team for next Saturday’s Rugby World Cup opener versus Argentina in Marseille.
The under-fire English squad have arrived in France following their miserable Summer Nations Series featuring injuries, suspensions and worrying defeats.
Tom Curry (ankle) didn’t feature at all across the four-match August programme, but assistant coach Wigglesworth suggested that the back row should be in the selection mix to face the Pumas as will Courtney Lawes, the stand-in captain versus Ireland and Fiji for the suspended Farrell.
Lawes was marked absent from Saturday’s World Cup capping ceremony in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, getting told to rest up back at the team hotel rather than attend the hour-long function at the nearby Palais des Congres.
“Training update is a few little bumps and bruises, but I think we will go into next weekend with a pretty full bill of health and everyone to choose from,” began Wigglesworth, who was giving his team’s first media briefing since last weekend’s 22-30 ambush by Fiji at Twickenham.
Asked about Curry’s status following his month-long unavailability, Wigglesworth added: “Yeah, he should be good to go. Hopefully, everyone is going to be ready. Not everyone has done everything yet and until they have you don’t know, but we think we should be good going in.”
The verdict on Lawes was: “He is a bit sore from training yesterday [Friday] so we thought the best thing for him was to not sit in a chair for an hour or so and then having to stand about and stuff so he is just resting in the hotel, just a little bit sore from the training yesterday. The pitch was quite heavy just because of all the rain. Nothing too serious, just looking after him.”
England flew into the Hauts-des-France region on Thursday and will spend seven nights in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage before flying south on Thursday to Marseille ahead of their World Cup opener.
Their reputation has been dented heading into the tournament due to the loss of five of their last six matches and six defeats in nine outings under rookie Test-level boss Borthwick.
However, Wigglesworth insisted things will get better and that steps were being taken to ensure that improvements happen. “The players were superb yesterday,” he suggested, referencing their first pitch training session in France.
“An open training session with that many people watching underlines that this is what we are here to do now. They got stuck into it yesterday, some difficult conditions, but we are delighted.
“We know we need to improve, there are a few things we have got to get right. The lads the last two days have been getting into that. We’re confident we are going to improve and we will give a good account of ourselves.”
Have the players been given more of a voice regarding the preparations given the recent run of troubling results? “No,” vouched the assistant who started working with England in June after finishing up his role as interim Leicester boss following the Welford Road departure last December of Borthwick to take over the England job from Eddie Jones.
“We had to put some stuff in place when putting a new team together but I don’t think there has ever been a situation where we haven’t particularly (had to change). From my point of view, how my relationship is with those lads, I have been close to a lot of them so have been in constant dialogue with them.”
Asked about the public negativity surrounding England, Wigglesworth added: “Well, you are assuming that it is going through. If you are (referring to something) inside the group then you know something I don’t. You filter the noise however it is…
“We know where we want to go as a team, we know how hard we are working. Lads have been first class. Yeah, you are probably plucking at things that are hearsay and what may be not true so I wouldn’t like to comment on them.”