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Six Nations: England attack coach Richard Wigglesworth hopeful on Marcus Smith, Alex Mitchell fitness


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England attack coach Richard Wigglesworth has told Sky Sports he is hopeful Marcus Smith and Alex Mitchell will be fit to face Ireland in Six Nations Round 4 next Saturday.

Speaking from England’s three-day training camp in York during the second Six Nations fallow week, Wigglesworth revealed fly-half Smith and scrum-half Mitchell would not train on Friday after calf and knee injuries respectively, but was hopeful they would be back in the mix early next week.

Smith has yet to play a minute of England’s 2024 campaign, due to suffering injury in a pre-tournament camp in Girona, while Mitchell started against Italy and Wales in the opening two rounds, only to then injure knee ligaments in training.

Both had been widely expected to miss the rest of the Six Nations owing to their injuries, but England head coach Steve Borthwick was positive earlier this week in his hopes they may yet return.

“We’re hopeful. They won’t train tomorrow [Friday], but we’re hopeful they’re going to be in the mix,” Wigglesworth told Sky Sports on Thursday from York.

“We’ll know more on Monday/Tuesday next week at training.

Fly-half Marcus Smith (calf) and scrum-half Alex Mitchell (knee) missed England’s defeat to Scotland in Round 3

“George [Ford] is an incredible 10, as is Fin Smith. We know we’re blessed in that regard. Marcus’ talents are clear, and he’s produced in an England shirt and a Harlequins shirt for quite a number of years now, and we know how he attacks the line and challenges defences is different to other guys.

“Mitch has been a starting nine, and we’re hopeful he’ll be available next week.”

After suffering a fourth Calcutta Cup defeat in succession to Scotland at Murrayfield in Round 3, England next welcome runaway Six Nations leaders Ireland to Twickenham on Saturday March 9.

Marcus Smith, England, Rugby World Cup
Wigglesworth was full of praise for Smith’s attacking talents, and says he is hopeful he will be back in the mix

England have suffered four defeats in a row to Ireland, and one has to look back to the 1970s for the last time Ireland beat England five times in succession (1972-1976).

Andy Farrell’s Irish side have been in superb form, however, beating France in Marseille 38-17, Italy 36-0 in Dublin and Wales 31-7 at home.

“We don’t want to go backwards, we want to move forwards. The aim every week is to get better, now we didn’t do that last weekend, but growth improvement is very rarely on a nice smooth arc,” Wigglesworth said, admitting disappointment at England’s handling errors against Scotland.

“I’m not going to tell the England fans how to feel. They support us and turn up to stadiums in full voice, so they are allowed to feel how they want to, just know there is an incredible amount of work going on to get the best results and performances we can.

Ireland visit Twickenham in Round 4, having collected three bonus-point wins from three so far

“They [Ireland] deserve the plaudits they’re getting. Incredibly well coached outfit, producing incredibly strong performances. We know we’re up against a world-class team and look forward to it.”

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