England headcoach Eddie Jones named a 44-man pre-season training squad on Thursday, that have been enduring a training session at the Lensbury Hotel in London today.
With temperatures reaching over 30 degrees, any expectation that this camp might be less physically gruelling than a trip to Portugal will have been quickly dashed.
Chris Ashton was selected having returned to England this summer from playing in France with Toulon. The 31 year-old winger, who scored 19 tries in 39 Tests for England, last played international rugby in 2014.
As well as returning veterans, England coaches will also have a chance to look at a number of new or young players including Gabriel Ibitoye, Joel Kpoku, Jordan Olowofela and Michael Rhodes.
Eddie Jones said: “This is a pre-season camp so a lot of our players, particularly the ones who went on the South African tour, have just started training with their clubs so it’s just a chance to get a group of players together to have a chat about the season ahead and look at the important areas in developing the team. With just over 12 months until the Rugby World Cup, it is an important time.”
“We haven’t selected everyone. There are a number of players we rested from the tour that we have allowed to continue their pre-season with their clubs.
“This camp is all about individual preparation, it’s about looking to see how we can help each of the players improve, how we can help with their selection for the national team because we have 44 players coming in plus another 15 who are strongly in contention for the Quilter Internationals in November.”
On Ashton’s inclusion in the squad Jones said: “Chris is an exceptional player, I think we have seen with his form at Saracens, then at Toulon he has played exceedingly well. He’s come back to England because he wants to play for England so he has got the right desire, the right attitude so it will be good to work with him.”
With three England U20 players in Ibitoye, Kpoku and Olowofela,who featured in the recent World Rugby U20 Championship in France, named in the training squad Jones added: “It is an opportunity for them to show us what they have got. We have identified those guys who can potentially play for England in the future so this is a great opportunity for them.”
Jones added: “We have one day of training at this camp, a September camp, then a week before the South Africa game so every minute counts. We want to make sure we use every minute as productively as we can so that is the target of the camp.”
England’s next training camp will be Sunday 23 September until Tuesday 25 September in Bristol before joining up on Wednesday 24 October to prepare for the Quilter Internationals in November.
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