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Sam Simmonds cut loose by England as the squad is reduced to 28

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Sam Simmonds is the biggest name omitted from the reduced England squad of 28 that Eddie Jones has retained for this Saturday’s Autumn Nations Series opener versus Tonga at Twickenham. The Exeter No8 has not been capped by his country since March 2018 but he would have been hopeful that this near four-year gap might be breached this weekend. 

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The soon-to-be 27-year-old Simmonds was last capped by Jones when England were defeated by Ireland in the 2018 Six Nations. Having since played in the third Test of the 2021 Lions series versus the Springboks, his England squad exile then ended with Jones including him in the recent training squads ahead of the upcoming matches versus Tonga, Australia and South Africa.

However, Simmonds has now been released back to his club for next weekend’s Premiership action after Jones cut the 35-man squad he had with him at the start of this week in London down to 28 ahead of this Thursday’s team announcement.  

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Jones was on deck for the Tuesday lunchtime England media briefing and there was no indication at that session that Simmonds would be one of the seven players omitted ahead of the selection of the matchday 23, a decision that potentially paves the way for Alex Dombrandt to be the starting England No8. Simmonds was one of five forwards included at the start of this week who have now been released, Newcastle’s Callum Chick, Leicester pair Nic Dolly and George Martin and Northampton’s Lewis Ludlam the other four culled from the pack.

The exclusion of Dolly leaves just two hookers in the squad, meaning Jamie George, who was originally axed from the squad last month, will now make the matchday 23 at the very least versus Tonga. The two backs deemed surplus to requirement, meanwhile, were Saints’ Tommy Freeman and weekend call-up Louis Lynagh, who reported to camp injured following Harlequins’ defeat to Saracens on Sunday.    

Jones revealed at his lunchtime media briefing that Lynagh was unavailable for selection versus Tonga and he said the same of Raffi Quirke (knee) and Max Malins (calf), even though those two players have since been retained in the 28 ahead of the autumn series opener. The coach also admitted that Marcus Smith and Freddie Steward had minor knee complaints but he was “cautiously optimistic” the pair would be declared fit ahead of Thursday’s team announcement. 

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ENGLAND (squad of 28 vs Tonga)
FORWARDS:
Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, 2 caps)
Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 33 caps)
Trevor Davison (Newcastle Falcons, 1 cap)
Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 1 cap)
Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 23 caps)
Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 30 caps)
Jamie George (Saracens, 59 caps)
Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 9 caps)
Maro Itoje (Saracens, 48 caps)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 87 caps)
Joe Marler (Harlequins, 72 caps)
Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 44 caps)
Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)
Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 24 caps)

BACKS:
Mark Atkinson (Gloucester Rugby, uncapped)
Owen Farrell (Saracens, 93 caps)
George Furbank (Northampton Saints, 4 caps)
Max Malins (Saracens, 8 caps)
Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 6 caps)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 66 caps)
Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Raffi Quirke (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
Adam Radwan (Newcastle Falcons, 1 cap)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 40 caps)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 2 caps)
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps)
Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 43 caps)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 109 caps)

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