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England cut their squad to 29 ahead of their Six Nations opener

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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England boss Eddie Jones has retained 29 players ahead of next Saturday’s opening Guinness Six Nations match away to Scotland but he will be on the lookout for a new captain as Courtney Lawes – who had been tipped to take over from the unavailable Owen Farrell – has been ruled out of selection contention. 

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Concussion-affected Lawes will remain with the squad as he continues to progress through his return to play protocols but both he and Jonny Hill, who has a stress fracture to his lower leg, have been ruled out of the championship opener at Murrayfield after neither had taken part in any contract training as of Tuesday afternoon.  

Lawes was tipped to become the England skipper after it was confirmed that the ankle-troubled Farrell would miss the entire Six Nations. However, having taken a blow on January 16 when playing for Northampton against Ulster in the Heineken Champions Cup, Nick Isiekwe of Saracens was called into the England squad last week as injury cover while Lawes was left to progress through his return to play process. Isiekwe has now been officially added to the squad with Lawes and Hill out of the running.

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Earlier on Tuesday, England forwards coach Matt Proudfoot had been optimistic that both Lawes and Hill could still be available to face the Scots. “Courtney is still going through his return to play processes and he is progressing through that, and we will have a look at how Jonny Hill comes through his process. So far everyone is looking in a good state,” said the coaching assistant at a delayed media briefing on Tuesday afternoon.

“We have got to follow the process,” added Proudfoot with regards to Lawes. “With concussion, it’s very important that you follow that process and if we have one per cent of doubt we won’t play him – but he is raring to go. He is progressing nicely through what he has been asked to do, what the doctors have structured for him and he is right on top of it. Let’s see how we go. It is only Tuesday today, there is still a couple of days to go.”

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Lawes and Hill weren’t the only forwards excluded from the squad ahead of Thursday’s 11.30am naming of the matchday 23 to take on Scotland as the uncapped Alfie Barbeary and rookie tighthead Joe Heyes were also cut from the 37 named on Sunday by Jones to assemble at Pennyhill Park for training at the start of this week.

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In the backs, the most noticeable absentee was scrum-half Raffie Quirke who played a stormer off the bench in the November win over South Africa. The uncapped trio of Orlando Bailey, Louis Lynagh and Luke Northmore also miss out as does Adam Radwan.

ENGLAND SQUAD (vs Scotland, Saturday)
FORWARDS (16)
Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, 5 caps)
Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 31 caps)
Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 36 caps)
Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 4 caps)
Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 26 caps)
Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 31 caps)
Jamie George (Saracens, 61 caps)
Nick Isiekwe (Saracens, 3 caps)
Maro Itoje (Saracens, 51 caps)
Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 10 caps)
Joe Marler (Harlequins, 74 caps)
Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks, 2 caps)
Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 9 caps)
Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 47 caps)
Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 15 caps) 

BACKS (13)
Mark Atkinson (Gloucester Rugby, 1 cap)
Elliot Daly (Saracens, 52 caps)
George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 77 caps)
George Furbank (Northampton Saints, 5 caps)
Ollie Hassell-Collins (London Irish, uncapped)
Max Malins (Saracens, 10 caps)
Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 7 caps)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 34 caps)
Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, 2 caps)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 43 caps)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 5 caps)
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 5 caps)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 112 caps)

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