England are ready to pitch Courtney Lawes straight into their crunch Guinness Six Nations clash with Wales if he impresses during training next week.
Lawes’ last international appearance was as captain during the July tour to Australia but concussion, glute and calf problems have limited him to only 170 minutes of rugby for his club Northampton this season.
But the 33-year-old, who can play lock or flanker, will take part in his first full-blooded practise session on Thursday as he closes in on his comeback.
Having amassed 96 caps for England and five for the Lions, scrum coach Richard Cockerill insists there would be no qualms over naming Lawes in the starting XV or on the bench despite his lack of game time.
“Courtney has done parts of training this week. He’ll take full part tomorrow (Thursday) and next week he should be taking a full part in training. Hopefully he’ll be available for selection,” Cockerill said.
“Depending on how he trains, there’s probably no concern over picking him. He’s an experienced player and he’s had long injuries previously and come back in and played well, for both club and country. So that doesn’t really concern us when it comes to a guy of his stature.”
Sinckler was omitted from Steve Borthwick’s 26-man training squad for this week but Cockerill insists the Bristol prop will be ready for the trip to Cardiff.
“Kyle’s got a bit of a cut on the end of his nose. He’s a 29-year-old tighthead and those are the first stitches he’s had on his face, so he was probably due some!” Cockerill said.
“And it was from Ellis Genge’s boot, so it was friendly fire as well! Kyle’s fine, he’s just avoiding opening them up again in training, but he’s doing everything else.”
England advanced their aim of improving the worst performing tier-one scrum of 2022 in Sunday’s victory over Italy and Cockerill is determined to leave the set-piece in good health when he steps down at the end of the Guinness Six Nations.
“We’ve made good progress at the scrum and most of that is down to the players’ attitude to what we need to get better at and where we sat post-autumn in tier one, which was last,” he said.
“Once I explained where we’re at, what we needed to do and how we can fix it, the players have got to work doing that. It’s got better, it’s not where we want it to be but it’s certainly getting better.
“We’re spending lots of time on our set-piece and you get results from what you spend time on.
“Steve Borthwick’s obviously an exceptional forwards coach and the blend of our skill-sets works well together.
“I like French rugby, I’ve played there and I’ve coached there and this is an opportunity to go back and do a longer stint.
“It’s more of a personal thing than anything else – there was no ulterior motive. There are no underlying reasons why. It was just a great opportunity in a great part of the world.
“Montpellier are currently French champions and it’s something I really want to do.”