The list was bad enough before the competition kicked off last Saturday but after the opening round, more players have been ruled out due to injuries.
No doubt that a few players injured earlier have recovered faster than anticipated to be able to be included in the matchday squads but by and large, these injuries continue to be a cause for concern in the present and something the sport’s administrators may have to take a closer look in terms of the longer-term perspective.
After the three matches last weekend, a few players will be out for the rest of the tournament and most likely for the rest of the season which concludes around the middle of the year.
France, guided by new coach Jacques Brunel, surprised a lot of people by coming so close to upsetting Ireland in Paris, taking the lead by one point with about eight minutes left through a moment of brilliance by wing Teddy Thomas but only to lose 15-13 through the last kick of the game – a long-range drop goal by flyhalf Johnny Sexton.
Debutant flyhalf, the 19-year-old Matthieu Jalibert, is expected to be out of contention for at least one month due to torn ligaments while the season looks over for replacement scrumhalf, 20-year-old Antoine Dupont, who ruptured his ligaments.
The other French player who is expected to be out for about a month is backrower Kevin Gourdon.
Before the tournament started France had four squad members ruled out injured, with three of them in the reckoning to be named in the matchday 23.
For England, scrumhalf Ben Youngs was on the field against Italy for only about 10 minutes before a knee injury took him off the game. Youngs is also expected to be out until early May.
England’s injury list had 16 squad members ruled out but only two were expected to be first choice starters and possible another two on the bench but what was encouraging was that backrower Chris Robshaw and wing Jack Nowell recovered earlier than thought and played against Italy.
But because England has depth, coach Eddie Jones is not expected to lose any sleep over the players he cannot select for his squad.
The crock lists have also been long for Ireland and Wales, with seven of the 10 out of Wales’ likely choices for the matchday 23. Ireland had 11 out before last weekend, of whom four would have been in the squad for the game against France.
Scotland, so disappointing in the defeat to Wales in Cardiff after such an exciting November series, could not select 10 players, four of whom would have made the squad on Saturday.
Many in the medical and sports science segment generally agree the administrators need to take a look at how the game has been taking its toll on players in the last few decades since rugby went fully professional after the 1995 World Cup.
No doubt wages are higher but so too the demands on players.
If in the old days an international would play only three or four Tests in a year at the most and this too not every year but the professional era means that a first-choice international is likely to play between 12 and 14 Tests a year, every year. The calendar has also gotten more congested for club rugby.
Making the situation more critical is that players are getting bigger, taller and stronger, thus making the on-field collisions harder.
On the Malaysian rugby front, it was interesting to read the news item about how Malaysia has been drawn into a tough group for the Commonwealth Games Sevens in April, together with South Africa, Scotland and Papua New Guinea, all teams Malaysia has never beaten.
The point is that of the four pools, there is none that can be called weak and the draw is made according to rankings and seedings which separate teams within the same band.
In fact, given that everyone knows well in advance which are the strongest teams, the thing left to do is to prepare as best you can and be ready to face the best. And most of the world’s best in both the 15s and 7s are in the Commonwealth.
The other three pools are: England, Australia, Samoa, Jamaica; New Zealand, Canada, Kenya and Zambia; Fiji, Wales, Sri Lanka and Uganda.
The last named teams in the three pools are on paper in the weakest band and that’s where Malaysia belongs. The only team that is unknown to Malaysia and the rest of the rugby world is Zambia but the draw would not have put both teams in the same pool, which means that no matter which pool Malaysia is in, there is no escaping the likes of England, Australia, Samoa, New Zealand, Canada, Kenya, Fiji, Wales and Sri Lanka.