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Courtney Lawes is ruled out as England cut squad from 36 to 27

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

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Eddie Jones has trimmed his England squad of 36 down to 27 ahead of Sunday’s Guinness Six Nations round two match away to Italy in Rome, a group that doesn’t include Courtney Lawes for the second successive match. 

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It was only on Tuesday evening when the head coach officially confirmed the 36-strong squad he had with him in Bagshot following the completion of a training session under lights at Pennyhill Park, but that assembly has now been reduced in size by nine players. 

Aside from Lawes, who continues working through the return to play protocols following a concussion last month when playing for Northampton, Wasps duo Alfie Barbeary and Joe Launchbury, along with surprise uncapped back row call-up Tom Pearson from London Irish, have been cut from the forwards. Newcastle forward Callum Chick will train with the squad, though, during the remainder of this week’s preparations.

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Facing Goliath Trailer | Behind the scenes with Italy vs All Blacks | RugbyPass Originals
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Facing Goliath Trailer | Behind the scenes with Italy vs All Blacks | RugbyPass Originals

Five backs have also been omitted. They are Gloucester midfielder Mark Atkinson, who had been hotly tipped by pundits such as Austin Healey for selection, Northampton full-back George Furbank, wingers Louis Lynagh of Harlequins and Ollie Hassell-Collins of London Irish, and Sale scrum-half Raffi Quirke.

With Lewis Ludlam, a starter at Murrayfield last Saturday, unavailable after suffering a rib cartilage injury, England would have hoped that Lawes would have pitched up fit but his omission isn’t a great surprise.

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Jones had stated at his midday Tuesday media briefing that his skipper in the November wins over South Africa and Tonga would have to train fully on Wednesday to be in selection contention to face the Italians. A more surprising development was that the fit-again Launchbury, who was called into the squad on Tuesday for the first time since his serious knee injury with Wasps last April, was left out after just two days of training with England.

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“Joe is a good Test lock,” remarked Jones on Tuesday after giving Launchbury his recall. “He is an outstanding mauler, he is a guy that is tough around the one-pass play around the ruck and he brings a lot of experience. At the moment experience is not something we have got a lot of.” If so, it is strange that Launchbury has now been excluded.

ENGLAND SQUAD (vs Italy, Sunday)
FORWARDS (16)
Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, 5 caps)
Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 32 caps)
Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 37 caps)
Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 5 caps)
Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 27 caps)
Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 32 caps)
Jamie George (Saracens, 62 caps)
Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps)
Maro Itoje (Saracens, 52 caps)
Nick Isiekwe (Saracens, 4 caps)
Joe Marler (Harlequins, 75 caps)
Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks, 2 caps)
Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 10 caps)
Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 48 caps)
Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 16 caps) 

BACKS (11)
Elliot Daly (Saracens, 53 caps)
George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 78 caps)
Max Malins (Saracens, 11 caps)
Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 8 caps)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 34 caps)
Adam Radwan (Newcastle Falcons, 2 caps)
Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, 2 caps)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 44 caps)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 6 caps)
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 6 caps)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 113 caps)

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