Eddie Jones today defended his decision to ignore Sam Simmonds, the European player of the year, and brother Joe, who led Exeter Chiefs to the Heineken Champions Cup and Gallagher Premiership double, for the Six Nations squad preparing to face Italy in Rome on Sunday.

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A bonus point victory over Italy looks likely to earn England the title and Jones has refused to be swayed in his belief that he can rule Europe again without the Simmonds brothers.

The final day of the delayed Six Nations will see Ireland champions with a bonus point win over France, however, the various scenarios include England taking the title if they beat Italy with a bonus point and France beat Ireland, unless Fabien Galthie’s side earn a bonus-point win and secure a margin of victory two points greater than England’s. If England win with a bonus point and Ireland beat France without a bonus point, the title would come down to points difference.

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With Courtney Lawes, Jack Nowell. Elliot Daly, George Ford, Joe Marler and Manu Tuilagi ruled out by injury and George Kruis now playing in Japan, Jones needed to bolster a squad denied a warm up game with the Barbarians on Sunday.

However, the Simmonds brothers did not make the squad despite their key roles in winning the double. Jones said he had spoken to the brothers about their absence and added: “At the end of the day it is my judgement call with the coaches having done due diligence and I have done about 8,000 miles watching players live and the decision is this is the best 36 players and there are other players out there who will be massively disappointed.

“It has been a difficult squad to pick and probably different to others because we have nine very good players unavailable and a congested club season which has provided selection challenges because of mis-matches in some of the games. At the end of the day I am happy with the squad and it has a nice balance and 25 per cent of the squad is uncapped.”

Jones paid tribute to the form of Wasps flanker Jack Willis who had been a break down revelation this season. He addded: “Jack’s been someone we’ve had on the radar for a long time, since 2018. We selected him for the South Africa tour and unfortunately, he’s injured. We’ve been watching his progress and he’s a good, jumping number six who carries well and contests hard. He has a good work attitude about him, so he’s a really old fashioned number six, so we’re looking forward to him. Jacob is a young guy at 10 who attacks the line and has plenty of courage in the way he plays.

“He’s a solid defender and is one of the reasons why Wasps did so well. We had him in camp earlier in this Six Nations and we were impressed by what he did, so we’re looking forward to working with him again.”

Backs: J Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby), O Farrell (Saracens), G Furbank (Northampton Saints), W Heinz (Gloucester Rugby), J Joseph (Bath Rugby), O Lawrence (Worcester Warriors), M Malins (Bristol Bears), J Marchant (Harlequins), J May (Gloucester Rugby), D Robson (Wasps), H Slade (Exeter Chiefs), O Thorley (Gloucester Rugby), J Umaga (Wasps), A Watson (Bath Rugby), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers).

Forwards: T Curry (Sale Sharks), T Dunn (Bath Rugby), B Earl (Bristol Bears), C Ewels (Bath Rugby), E Genge (Leicester Tigers), J George (Saracens), J Hill (Exeter Chiefs), T Hill (Worcester Warriors), M Itoje (Saracens), J Launchbury (Wasps), L Ludlam (Northampton Saints), B Obano (Bath Rugby), D Ribbans (Northampton Saints), J Singleton (Gloucester Rugby), K Sinckler (Bristol Bears), W Stuart (Bath Rugby), S Underhill (Bath Rugby), B Vunipola (Saracens), M Vunipola (Saracens), H Williams (Exeter Chiefs), J Willis (Wasps).

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