England will enter the autumn without four of their biggest names including the Vunipola brothers after Eddie Jones was unconvinced by their recent resurgence on club duty.
With the 2023 World Cup in mind, Mako and Billy Vunipola, Jamie George and George Ford have been overlooked for the 34-man squad picked for next month’s Tests against Tonga, Australia and South Africa.
The Vunipola brothers and fellow forward George have been left out despite excelling for Saracens since their initial snub from the extended training squad named a month ago.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 18, 2021
Ford’s generalship has been a key factor behind Leicester’s emergence as runaway Gallagher Premiership leaders after five rounds but the fly-half, another mainstay of the Jones era, is omitted once more.
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.
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“This is a young but very good and talented squad who have all earned their places. It is one of the most competitive squads I have ever picked,” said Jones, who has confirmed that Owen Farrell will continue as captain.
“There are a number of disappointed players who haven’t been selected, but they know what they need to do and no door is closed to any player.”
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.
Marcus Smith is one of eight who made their debuts in the July victories over the USA and Canada to survive the cull from 45 to 34 players, with the Harlequins fly-half’s inclusion coming at Ford’s expense.
Jamie Blamire, Callum Chick, Trevor Davison, Alex Dombrandt, Adam Radwan, Harry Randall and Freddie Steward are also present having impressed during the summer.
While Jones is looking to the future in his selection, some developing prospects have been unable to force their way into contention.
Ollie Lawrence, Louis Lynagh, Joe Marchant, Lewis Ludlow and Beno Obano have been removed after winning places in the initial training group announced last month.
“We’re looking forward to three tough Test matches. Tonga always play a strong, physical game and Australia and South Africa have had extended periods together and will be a good challenge for us,” Jones said.
“Our aim each week will be to get better and better as we work towards the 2023 World Cup.”
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