Eddie Jones has told his discarded England stalwarts they must prove they have the hunger to be involved in a third World Cup if they are to save their international careers.
England will enter the autumn without the Vunipola brothers, Jamie George and George Ford after they were overlooked for the 34-man squad that will face Tonga, Australia and South Africa next month.
In removing 276 caps, two Test Lions and four mainstays of his reign – all of them resurgent for their clubs this season – Jones has shown a ruthless disregard for reputation as planning for France 2023 begins in earnest.
Forwards Billy and Mako Vunipola and George have been left out despite excelling for Saracens since their initial snub from the extended training squad named a month ago.
Ford’s generalship has been a key factor behind Leicester’s emergence as runaway Gallagher Premiership leaders after five rounds but the fly-half also remains on the outside.
All could yet return from exile, but Jones must first be convinced of their motivation for another tilt at rugby’s greatest prize.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 18, 2021
“We now have a number of players who’ve been through two World Cup campaigns,” former Australia coach Jones said.
“With the third World Cup campaign, my experience tells me that some players can want to go to the World Cup but they don’t really have the will to prepare to win the World Cup.
“It did strike me the experience I had with Australia, post 2003. I kept some players on longer than I should have and that’s probably weighed in the selection choices that I’ve made in the last six months with England.
“One of the things I’m looking at is those players who’ve already been to two World Cups, whether they’ve got the will to prepare to win.
“We could have the most experienced side at the World Cup but whether they’ve got that will to go that extra 10 per cent and find that discretionary effort… that’s something I’m trying to find out at the moment.”
Jack Nowell, the Exeter wing with a lengthy injury history, and Wasps scrum-half Dan Robson have also been jettisoned ahead of a campaign that opens against Tonga at Twickenham on November 6.
Joining them are the less established Ollie Lawrence, Louis Lynagh, Joe Marchant, Lewis Ludlow and Beno Obano, who have been axed after winning places in the initial training group announced last month.
But it is in abandoning – at least for the time being – his old guard that Jones has acted to register the most decisive and uncompromising selection call of his reign.
“At the moment I feel they need to regenerate and rejuvenate. They need to add things to their game if they’re going to continue to the next World Cup,” said Jones, who confirmed that Owen Farrell will continue as captain for the autumn.
“They understand that and we’ll see how they progress over the next period of time. The door’s not closed to them, it’s always open.
“If they can tidy up their games in certain areas and come back with the right desire, the opportunities are going to be there for them.”
Maro Itoje (shoulder), Anthony Watson (knee) and Luke Cowan-Dickie (ankle) were injured during the weekend’s Gallagher Premiership action and Jones revealed that they will undergo scans this week.
Leicester hooker Nic Dolly and Northampton full-back Tommy Freeman make their first appearances in a senior England squad, while Gloucester centre Mark Atkinson and Sale scrum-half Raffi Quirke complete an uncapped quartet.