Wasps flanker Jack Willis is England’s unlucky absentee this Guinness Six Nations after missing out on Eddie Jones’ slimline 28-man squad.

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The RPA players’ player of the year is part of the shadow squad, losing his place from the autumn to Mark Wilson, who joins the regular triumvirate of Billy Vunipola, Tom Curry and Sam Underhill, as well as ‘finisher’ Ben Earl.

The squad is smaller in size than usual as a safety precaution, which means there are inevitably more surprising omissions.

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Although there are still plenty of calls for their inclusion, the absence of the Simmonds brothers is no longer news to anyone these days, and it would have been a surprise if anything if they were selected. Willis, on the other hand, is slightly different.

The Wasps sensation is included in the shadow squad, and was given a taste of Test rugby in the autumn. He is certainly part of Jones’ plans, but the coach has turned to a player he has a lot of trust in in Wilson.

Though he has only played once for England since the World Cup final in 2019, the Newcastle Falcons flanker has never let Jones when called upon, and has covered the back row for England adroitly in the past. His industry and grit are two qualities that will please the head coach, and his club warrants a recall.

Outside of that, the rest of the loose forwards are more or less undroppable, or certainly in Jones’ eyes.

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With a limited squad, the Australian will want to know exactly what he will get from his resources, and he has shown a lot of trust in Wilson before and it has paid off.

With that said, there is still room for new additions to the England squad, as Jones has traditionally liked to blood new faces into his squads. Bristol Bears’ Harry Randall and Wasps’ Paolo Odogwu are two deserving additions, with the Wasps winger storming into contention in recent weeks. Beno Obano is the other uncapped member of the squad, although the Bath prop has been part of the England set-up before.

With a unique squad size, finding the balance between experience and initiating new players would have been tough, which helps explain some calls.

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