Eddie Jones says the door is not shut on George Ford, Jamie George and the handful of other big-name absentees from the England squad named on Tuesday for a quickfire training camp this Sunday through to Tuesday.
By announcing a 45-man squad containing 18 players who are either uncapped or whose Test experience dates back less than three months to debuts against the USA and Canada while many of the main faces were with the British & Irish Lions, or resting, Jones delivered good-news and hard-luck stories aplenty.
Ford has been his country’s first- or second-choice fly-half since the day Jones became England head coach in late 2015, but despite a typically smooth playmaking performance in Leicester’s win over Exeter last weekend, the 28-year-old is now out on his ear.
“They need to find their best,” Jones said, when asked about the jettisoned regulars who include Billy and Mako Vunipola, the injured Elliot Daly and Mark Wilson, and the less well established Ben Earl and Joe Cokanasiga.
England’s autumn internationals
- England vs Tonga, 3.15pm on Sat 6 Nov
- England vs Australia, 5.30pm on Sat 13 Nov
- England vs South Africa, 3.15pm on Sat 20 Nov
Ford and Owen Farrell, the fly-half/centre who has retained his place despite iffy form this year, have long been the loudest voices in the England squad, charged with setting the tactical and spiritual tone. With the 2023 World Cup in France unequivocally set as the target by Jones yesterday, and “five campaigns” to go in the meantime, Ford was phoned on Monday as Jones’s “unpleasant part of the job”, and the very least that can be said of the Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith as this new-look group gather in south-west London for one main on-field session and start-of-season admin is a chance to place his own stamp on the red rose.
There is ample time for change and recalls before the November Tests with Tonga, Australia and South Africa, although not for Daly, who had an operation on a stress fracture his shin/lower leg last week, and will be out for around 10 weeks. All his fellow Saracens who toured with the Lions are back in training while seeing out a rest period, and on Farrell, the England captain, Jones said: “All I am worried about is getting Owen back to his best. At this stage there is no reason why he won’t [still] be captain. He had Covid before the Six Nations, his [club] team was in the Championship, they had spasmodic training sessions, he didn’t get high quality games.”
The three No.8s in the squad comprise the highly mobile Sam Simmonds, briefly a Test Lion in South Africa this summer but not picked by England since 2018, and the heftier Alex Dombrandt and Callum Chick of Harlequins and Newcastle respectively.
Manu Tuilagi returns from injury with the familiar expectation of solving England’s need for go-forward in the centres, while the venerable and still very serviceable Joe Marler returns to rub front-row shoulders with the emerging hookers Gabriel Oghre, Sam Riley and Jamie Blamire, and props Bevan Rodd, Joe Heyes and Trevor Davison.
“It’s the last chapter for me,” Jones said, with reference to his England contract expiring after the World Cup, and in the wake of the grim fifth-place finish in this year’s Six Nations, when Covid and the Saracens second-division scenario appeared to flummox him. “I’ve never been so excited in my life.”
The same may be true of everyone from the uncapped 31-year-old Gloucester centre Mark Atkinson to the very raw Harlequins pair Jack Kenningham and Louis Lynagh, and summer debutants including the Bristol scrum-half Harry Randall and Leicester full-back Freddie Steward, and the crackling Newcastle wing Adam Radwan.
Jones’s new assistants Richard Cockerill (forwards) and Martin Gleeson (attack) will be starting work, too, although the defence coach Anthony Seibold will arrive later. “Fantastic” was Jones’s word for this latest churn in his immediate staff.
“This is an exciting squad made up of experienced players and young guys who did well in the summer and have earned their place again,” Jones said, who also revealed that utility back Elliot Daly has had surgery on a stress fracture and will probably be out until December.
“We have left out some experienced players but we’re really clear that the door isn’t closed to them, and we’re looking forward to seeing them work hard to get back into contention.
“We have five campaigns now until the 2023 World Cup so each one counts, and this is a chance for this 45 to impress the new coaching staff.”
It will be the first time with Jones’ new group of backroom coaches after forwards coach Richard Cockerill, attack coach Martin Gleeson and defence coach Anthony Seibold were appointed over the summer.
The 45-man squad will come together on Sunday for a short training camp at The Lensbury in Teddington that will run until Tuesday 28 September.
England training squad in full
- Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, 2 caps)
- Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons, 2 caps)
- Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 31 caps)
- Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 33 caps)
- Trevor Davison (Newcastle Falcons, 1 cap)
- Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 1 cap)
- Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 23 caps)
- Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 30 caps)
- Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps)
- Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 9 caps)
- Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors, 2 caps)
- Maro Itoje (Saracens, 48 caps)
- Jack Kenningham (Harlequins, uncapped)
- Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 87 caps)
- Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 10 caps)
- Lewis Ludlow (Gloucester Rugby, 2 caps)
- Joe Marler (Harlequins, 72 caps)
- George Martin (Leicester Tigers, 1 cap)
- Beno Obano (Bath Rugby, 3 caps)
- Gabriel Oghre (Wasps, uncapped)
- Sam Riley (Harlequins, uncapped)
- Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
- Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 7 caps)
- Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 44 caps)
- Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)
- Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 24 caps)
- Mark Atkinson (Gloucester Rugby, uncapped)
- Owen Farrell (Saracens, 93 caps)
- George Furbank (Northampton Saints, 4 caps)
- Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors, 7 caps)
- Louis Lynagh (Harlequins, uncapped)
- Max Malins (Saracens, 8 caps)
- Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 6 caps)
- Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 66 caps)
- Raffi Quirke (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
- Adam Radwan (Newcastle Falcons, 1 cap)
- Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, 2 caps)
- Dan Robson (Wasps, 14 caps)
- Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 40 caps)
- Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
- Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 2 caps)
- Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps)
- Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 43 caps)
- Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 51 caps)
- Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 109 caps)
The speedy Newcastle wing surging into England’s thoughts for 2023 Rugby World Cup
By Hugh Godwin, i rugby union correspondent
Newcastle Falcons decline to share figures for their players’ sprint times, but TV pundit and former England and Lions wing Ugo Monye reckons Adam Radwan is the quickest runner in the Premiership.
That means he can outdo, for instance, the Exeter No 8 Sam Simmonds, who was clocked at around 21 mph last autumn by the Piero system used by BT Sport to illustrate their on-screen analysis – although this is a random measure.In July, England’s in-house publicity team tweeted Radwan racing the length of the field in training, with barely a hand laid on him, and the caption “Catch him if you can – you can’t”. The reply from prop Ellis Genge was “Mental quick, this budgie”, and Radwan promptly ripped up Twickenham for real by scoring three tries against Canada on his Test debut.
Jones now needs to judge the ability of the man they call “Radders” and all the other contenders to do the same against South Africa, Australia and Tonga this autumn, and the other big guns to come.
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