Eddie Jones was in bullish mood as he defended his right to pick Hurricanes captain Brad Shields and Wasps outside half Danny Cipriani for the three test tour of South Africa in a squad that includes 18-year-old schoolboy Cameron Redpath, son of former Scotland skipper Bryan Redpath.
New Zealand grudgingly agreed to give Shields a temporary release from his Hurricanes commitments to make the tour party which is captained by Saracens Owen Farrell with Dylan Hartley out with concussion. In 2016 Jones said there was not point picking Cipriani – who won the last of his 14 caps three years ago – if he wasn’t first choice ten.
Jones has changed his tune and believes Cipriani is also a full back option in South Africa saying: “Life is full of contradictions and three games ago I was the best thing that ever happened to English rugby and now I am the worst thing that ever happened to English rugby. You media guys are allowed to be contradictory and so I’m allowed. He can add value to the squad at this stage.
“Danny has not had a recall – I have never picked him so I have for the first time. I have watched him very closely and he deserves an opportunity and has done things I have asked him to do in games. He is has to prove he is the best No10 in the squad or No15. We wouldn’t have picked him if we didn’t think so.
“Brad Shields is a good hard working player who plays for the best team in the Southern Hemisphere. He is a considerable influence in that team a hard working gritty player and a good back up to Chris Robshaw. My responsibility is to pick England qualified players – I don’t decide the regulations.
“Cameron is an exciting young player with great potential to play for England. He has lovely skills, runs straight and has a nice feel for the game. He is an exciting player for us.
“There are about 20 players we weren’t able to consider for selection and so we have some holes in the squad. We felt it is the appropriate time to rest players because the priority is to win the World Cup and we have stated that very clearly. “
Eight uncapped players are going to South Africa headed by 18-year-old Redpath, the Sedbergh schoolboy, the son of Scotland U20 coach Bryan. The other uncapped players are Nathan Earle(Saracens), Dan Robson(Wasps), Ben Spencer(Saracens), Ben Earl(Saracens), Jonny Hill(Exeter), Shields(Hurricanes) and Jack Willis (Wasps).
There are 20 players either injured or rested but Don Armand, the Exeter flanker, is not selected despite being available and that will be a direct result of the Shields call up. The players being rested are; Danny Care(Harlequins), James Haskell(Wasps), Richard Wigglesworth(Saracens) and Dan Cole (Leicester).
Those injured and unavailable include Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes(both Northampton), Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson (both Bath), Nathan Hughes (Wasps), George Kruis(Saracens), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester), Jack Clifford(Harlequins) and Sam Underhill(Bath).
England play their three tests in Johannesburg( June 9), Bloemfontein (June 16) and Cape Town (June 23).
With his 20-minutes as a replacement against London Irish before he injured his hamstring in training, Billy Vunipola is touring having played only 249 minutes of rugby all season thanks to knee surgery and that broken arm suffered against Ospreys. Vunipola missed England’s Autumn and Six Nations international programmes but if he can get through the play-off matches without further injury, he will offer England much needed ball carrying power.
Aussie Scott Wisemantel, who took over the Japan coaching role when Eddie Jones was ill in 2013, is filling the backs coach role for England on tour. England last toured South Africa in 2012 losing the first two Tests before drawing the final match under head coach Stuart Lancaster.
England also named a 31 man training squad for the Barbarians match on May 27 which includes Joe Cokanasiga, Josh McNally and Ben Loader of relegated London Irish and Jono Ross of Sale. But there is no place for Newcastle’s Gary Graham.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now