England manager Martin Johnson is not yet surveying the debris of a failed Six Nations campaign, although it will break into a thousand pieces if his struggling side lose the Calcutta Cup match with Scotland in Edinburgh on Saturday week.
He did, however, spend yesterday casting a dark eye over the damage caused to his first-choice personnel during the painful defeat by Ireland at Twickenham.
Both the full-back Delon Armitage and the lock Simon Shaw are at risk of missing the rest of the tournament: the former with a nasty rib cartilage injury that may take six weeks to clear up; the latter with a mangled joint in his left shoulder. The full extent of Shaw's problem has yet to be ascertained, but two teams of medics — one from England, the other from Wasps — were due to meet today to discuss the results of a scan, together with the findings of a specialist's review.
Johnson immediately decided to hold back Armitage's like-for-like replacement, the Northampton full-back Ben Foden, and Shaw's engine room deputy, the Leicester lock Louis Deacon, for Murrayfield preparation instead of releasing them to their clubs for Premiership activity this weekend. David Wilson, the Bath prop, was also confined to barracks, as were those 13 members of Saturday's starting line-up still considered to be in one piece. The remainder of the elite squad, including one or two individuals challenging hard for promotion —the Leicester outside-half Toby Flood, the Wasps flanker Joe Worsley — were made available for the forthcoming round of league matches.
Wales, beaten for a second time in three Six Nations outings last Friday night and effectively out of the running for the title, have lost players of their own. Two Cardiff Blues tight forwards, the lock Deiniol Jones and the hooker Gareth Williams, are off-limits for next week's meeting with Ireland in Dublin. Jones hurt his ribs early in the game against France at the Millennium Stadium while Williams, unavailable since picking up a knee problem against Scotland last month, has made insufficient progress to challenge for a place.
Warren Gatland has real problems in the second row, thanks to the injury absences of Alun Wyn Jones and Ian Evans and the need to play the multi-tasking Jonathan Thomas on the blind-side flank in place of Andrew Powell, ditched from the squad after his recent escapade with a golf buggy.