Eddie Jones has wielded the ax on four of England’s most influential players – including the Vunipola brothers – for the Autumn Internationals
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.
Ford’s leadership 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.
“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 center 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.
England squad full house
England’s 34-man squad for the autumn Tests against Tonga, Australia and South Africa…
Forwards: J Blamire (Newcastle Falcons), C Chick (Newcastle Falcons), L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), T Curry (Sale Sharks), T Davison (Newcastle Falcons), N Dolly (Leicester Tigers), A Dombrandt (Harlequins), C Ewels (Bath Rugby), E Genge (Leicester Tigers), J Hill (Exeter), M Itoje (Saracens), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), L Ludlam (Northampton Saints), J Marler (Harlequins), G Martin (Leicester Tigers), S Simmonds (Exeter), K Sinckler (Bristol Bears), W Stuart (Bath Rugby), S Underhill (Bath Rugby).
Backs: M Atkinson (Gloucester Rugby), O Farrell (Saracens, capt), T Freeman (Northampton Saints), G Furbank (Northampton Saints), M Malins (Saracens), J May (Gloucester Rugby), R Quirke (Sale Sharks), A Radwan (Newcastle Falcons), H Randall (Bristol Bears), H Slade (Exeter), M Smith (Harlequins), F Steward (Leicester Tigers), M Tuilagi (Sale Sharks), A Watson (Bath Rugby), B Youngs ( Leicester Tigers).
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.”