5 of the biggest casualties as England name Six Nations squad
Accused throughout the 2021 Guinness Six Nations of being too loyal to certain favourites, Eddie Jones has continued on his recent mission to rejuvenate his England by announcing a squad for the 2022 championship containing six uncapped players – Orlando Bailey, Alfie Barbeary, Ollie Chessum, Tommy Freeman, Ollie Hassell-Collins and Luke Northmore – and excluding six players – Sam Underhill, Manu Tuilagi, Adam Radwan, Alex Mitchell, Trevor Davison and Nic Dolly – that played during the successful autumn series.
Wasps back-rower Barbeary was the highest-profile newcomer and Jack Nowell the most popular fit-again recall. Meanwhile, Underhill was the biggest-name omission along with the re-injury of Tuilagi while there were also no places available for George Ford, Mako Vunipola and Billy Vunipola, the three headline exclusions last October when Jones named his England squad for the three-game Autumn Nations Series.
With the die now cast for England and their upcoming Six Nations, a campaign that begins with back-to-back away assignments versus Scotland and Italy, RugbyPass sifts through the list of players who will have most regret over missing out on inclusion in the 36-strong squad that will assemble for a week’s training next Monday in Brighton:
1. SAM UNDERHILL
The openside enjoyed a profitable Autumn Nations Series but that credit in the bank hasn’t paid a January dividend with Jones tempted instead to have a look at Barbeary in his England squad. Underhill hasn’t enjoyed a flow back at struggling Bath since the win over the Springboks, making just three appearances and the last coming on Boxing Day with him occupying the unfamiliar role of No8.
Underhill shipped a head knock in that December 26 Premiership match versus Gloucester and the resulting lay-off was enough for Jones to turn his gaze elsewhere away from a player he had chosen in the original 2021 Six Nations squad only for him to pull out the following week with a hip issue. “Sam is not quite ready,” explained Jones on Tuesday. “He has had a fairly truncated period since the autumn but we are hopeful he will get himself fit and match ready for later in the tournament.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 18, 2022
2. GEORGE FORD
The starting out-half in the 2019 World Cup final must surely be perplexed over what he needs to do to get a look-in again with England. While Marcus Smith is undeniably deserving of his place, Ford will be incredulous that his stellar form this season with Leicester has still counted for nothing when it comes to Test squad selection.
It can’t have sat well with him that it was George Furbank, a more regular Northampton full-back, who started the November opener against Tonga at No10, and it must be even more irritating that rookie Bailey, the youngster playing for bottom club Bath, has now been chosen instead of the talisman who has been inspiring Leicester at the top of the Premiership.
On Bailey, Jones enthused: “He can take the ball to the line, is a strong defender and can play ten, twelve or 15. We are particularly looking for those multi-skilled backs players who are going to be important.” That flexibility doesn’t bode well for Ford, despite Jones’ insistence that the door is still open to those on the outer looking in.
3. ELLIOT DALY
The versatile Saracens back came back from the Lions tour having completed the extraordinary feat of playing a part in all eight matches on South African territory. However, there was a sting in the tail as a shin issue needed a post-tour procedure and despite making five appearances for his club in recent weeks (including three starts at left wing and another at outside centre), he hasn’t done enough to win over Jones.
“He hasn’t played a lot of rugby, needs to get some good match fitness and some good match form behind him,” explained the England coach on Tuesday. Daly’s exclusion after a lengthy run in the full-back jersey highlights how well newcomer Freddie Steward performed in November.
4. MAKO VUNIPOLA
Unlike at No8 where England now have a queue of players – Tom Curry, Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds – looking for selection and edging ahead of the out-of-favour Billy Vunipola in the pecking order, Mako Vunipola is entitled to feel a bit more aggrieved than his brother about not getting an England recall.
It was quite the drama in November with England thrown into the emergency that was having Ellis Genge and Joe Marler unavailable in isolation for the Wallabies match, a situation that resulted in them relying on rookie pair Bevan Rodd and Trevor Davison.
Rodd also went on to start the following week versus the Springboks and while Vunipola has returned to form at Saracens where Mark McCall has regularly sung his praises, Jones has stuck by the young Sale prop for the upcoming camp. It leaves Vunipola to stew and fear his reputable England career is over at the age of 31.
5. ADAM RADWAN
The 24-year-old blazed a trail among the 2021 newcomers introduced to the Test fold by Jones, the Newcastle winger scoring a hat-trick on his summer debut versus Canada and then going to get on the scoresheet with another try in the November win over Tonga. He was excluded for the games versus Australia and South Africa, Jones instead selecting Tuilagi and Joe Marchant in the wing jersey.
Radwan has had five starts back at Newcastle since the series, scoring twice, but Jones has now taken a shine to a different winger, inviting Hassell-Collins of London Irish along next week. “He is a big, strong winger who breaks tackles, came through the sevens,” explained Jones when asked what attributes the Irish player will bring to the fray, his inclusion an indication of the coach’s eagerness to keep spreading the net wide no matter how well other rookies play for England.
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