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Gloucester have had their say on England omission of Mark Atkinson

By Chris Jones
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Gloucester boss George Skivington is backing Mark Atkinson to prove he can revive his England career despite being dumped by Eddie Jones from the Guinness Six Nations squad preparing to take on Wales at Twickenham on Saturday. Atkinson, who turns 32 on March 8, made his Test debut against Tonga in the Autumn Nations series and was expected to feature in the Six Nations with Manu Tuilagi not fit to start the championship.

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However, he was overlooked for the opening games with Scotland and Italy and with Tuilagi now back in the squad, Atkinson was released by head coach Eddie Jones at the start of this week leading into the match with Wales.

Of the 36 players chosen a fortnight ago to prepare for the round two game versus Italy, Atkinson was one of the three players from that selection not called into the squad for this week’s preparations. Ollie Hassell-Collins of London Irish was also left out along with clubmate Tom Pearson, with Tuilagi and Orlando Bailey added to the backs in the squad of 35 that assembled at Pennyhill.   

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The decision regarding Atkinson left Gloucester without any representation in the latest England squad and club boss Skivington said: “Mark has dealt with a lot of setbacks in his career and fought his way up the leagues and has not had a sweet ride since 18. 

“It is has been a bit of a dog fight and he fought really hard and now he is right on the cusp of it. He has had enough setbacks and mentally it is not going to knock him off track. If anything it will sharpen that focus. For Mark, it was a dream to play for England and on merit, it did happen and he is desperate to play for England and would like some more opportunities.

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“He is level-headed about it and knows how hard he has to work to get the jersey. He is disappointed and we all hoped he would get an opportunity in this series but missing out on Italy, he had an inclination he wasn’t first choice twelve. He has come back positive and is getting focused on Leicester. You would hope that if he plays well in the Premiership then Eddie always has the ability to pull him back in.

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“We have six or seven lads who are right on the edge of being in the England and squad and it is Eddie’s decision as the head coach. We have to be consistent over a long time, then those guys’ names will get talked about. It is still early days for us as a group.”

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