Before hitting a single key to construct this week's column, your correspondent looked at the rugby union sections of several major newspapers' websites and, obviously, perused the bulk of the headlines on this site.
On every single site, more than half of their top ten rugby stories were about injured players. On one site, the figure was eight out of ten and of the two that weren't injury-related one was about Gavin Henson, who might as well be injured for all the rugby he's playing at present.
So, old Twinkle Toes aside, injury is once again hogging the headlines. Martin Johnson in particular must feel as though he's picking his players up like armfuls of gambling chips and hurling them into the air every time he sees them play club rugby.
'Who will land on the unlucky number this week? Bugger, it's Jonny. Again' And so England are calling up extra resources, Johnno is scratching out names as quickly as he scribbles them down and the starting XV that will face the All Blacks a week on Saturday has as much chance of mirroring the side that beat the Wallabies on Australian soil as our Gavin does of landing a role in Riverdance.
The new era - yes, another one – is in danger of starting under yet another murky injury cloud and the judgements as to whether England really are beginning to find their feet will come with the usual caveats.
The good news? At least all the young bucks are fit. Courtney Lawes, Dan Cole, Ben Youngs, Chris Ashton and Ben Foden must all be pitched in. This international window is the last chance to see what they're made of against the Southern giants before the World Cup next year.
The evidence of last summer suggests they could have what it takes. In defeat - which must be considered more probable than possible in this first autumn test - they still have the opportunity to see how far they measure against the very best.
Johnson will never tell you anything other than a win will suffice but his own international history should tell him otherwise. Remember 1997 and England's 26-26 thriller with the Kiwis at Twickenham?
England were roasting them for half the match until fitness allowed the visitors back in, but for those glorious 40 minutes that young team under Clive Woodward found out what it took to beat the best, and realised they had it in them.
If Johnson's England walk off the field armed with new information as useful as that, injuries or no injuries, it could be the most valuable day in English rugby for some time.
READ DANNY COYLE AT RUGBY.CO.UK EVERY WEEK
Date published :
27 Oct 2010 - 10:38:22