Eddie Jones accepts the hazards involved in playing four warm-up Tests as the necessary cost of properly preparing England for the World Cup.
The danger of playing full-blooded internationals was cruelly underlined at Twickenham last Sunday when Wales fly-half Gareth Anscombe suffered a serious knee injury that has ruled him out of Japan 2019.
In the same match, England lost their outstanding openside Tom Curry to a shoulder injury that has made him unavailable for the return fixture against the Grand Slam champions in Cardiff.
The prospect of losing the likes of captain Owen Farrell or second row Maro Itoje – both of whom return on Saturday – so close to the tournament is alarming, but Jones insists that protecting his stars would be counter-productive.
“I don’t worry about injuries. You can put them in cotton wool but then they’d not be ready for the World Cup,” Jones said.
“You’ve just got to get on with it and that’s the way it always has been. It’s the risk you take.
“It would be easy to have nice camps in Treviso and not play games. You get them all fit but not ready to play rugby.
“It’s like a boxer – a boxer’s got to box. A rugby player’s got to play rugby. There’s a risk involved.
“If they get injured you feel for the player but then look to see who the next best is.
“People get excited about these warm-up games – ‘you’ve got to win, you’ve got to win’. And if you don’t, it’s the end of the world.
“For me it’s about getting players fit and hard and experimenting with a few areas to see if they come off and then hopefully have the 31 you’ve selected on the plane.”
Anthony Watson and Jonny May have been placed on standby to be promoted from outside the 23 and on to the right wing after Ruaridh McConnochie suffered another setback. McConnochie (hip) was due to make his international debut against Gatland’s men last weekend.