England explain dropping Underhill and reveal Tuilagi setback
Eddie Jones has explained the absence of Sam Underhill and Manu Tuilagi – two starters in the win last time out versus the Springboks at Twickenham in November – from the 36-man England squad he named on Tuesday for the upcoming Guinness Six Nations campaign which starts away to Scotland on February 5.
Underhill has played just three games for Bath in the weeks since England saw out their Autumn Nations Series with a three-wins-from-three record, while Tuilagi hasn’t featured for Sale since he limped out of England’s last match after scoring against South Africa.
Jones made allowances for other players who emerged from that Test series injured. For instance, skipper Owen Farrell has yet to feature for Saracens since his injury versus Australia (he returns to action next weekend) while clubmate Jamie George has played just twice since his injury in that same Test match.
However, this leeway being applied to Farrell and George regarding their selection in the 2022 Six Nations squad hasn’t been mirrored regarding Underhill and Tuilagi. “Sam is not quite ready,” explained Jones about the back-rower who shipped a head knock on Boxing Day playing for Bath versus Gloucester. “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.”
As regards Tuilagi, Sale boss Alex Sanderson had recently suggested the midfielder was close to a comeback but that no longer appears to be the case. Jones revealed: “He has had a wee setback but we will just have to wait and see what he is up to. He needs to get some training, needs to play a few games. If we are 100 per cent optimistic we’d say yes (he will feature in the Six Nations). If we are realistic it’s probably about a 50/50.”
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Jones also described the situation regarding Elliot Daly, the most used Lions player who came back from the South African tour with an injury before eventually lining out for Saracens in December, as similar to Underhill. “Elliot is a bit the same. He hasn’t played a lot of rugby, needs to get some good match fitness and some good match form behind him.”
Farrell was named as the England skipper of a 36-strong squad that included six uncapped players – Orlando Bailey, Alfie Barbeary, Ollie Chessum, Tommy Freeman, Ollie Hassell-Collins and Luke Northmore – but there was no room again for the likes of George Ford and the Vunipola brothers, the three high profile November squad omissions.
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