Excitement for the NatWest Six Nations continues to rise as Head Coach Eddie Jones announces his England squad to face Italy on Sunday 4th February. The hotly anticipated fixture, staged in Rome, is England’s opening game of the tournament, with games against Wales and Ireland at Twickenham set to follow swiftly afterwards.
Following the weekend’s club fixtures, thirty-five players will travel to a Portugal training camp for a week’s worth of vigorous preparation before they reconvene on Monday 29th January at Pennyhill Park ahead of the tournament opener.
The squad selection sees eight uncapped players feature whilst 898 caps are shared among the remaining 27 players.
Gary Graham (Newcastle Falcons) is retained having already been involved in the England set-up for the first time earlier in January whilst Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs) receives his first call-up to the senior squad.
Twenty-one year old Harlequins prop, Lewis Boyce, also receives his first senior call-up following the six-week suspension of club teammate, Joe Marler. The 2016 Rugby U20 Championship winner is enjoying his first season at the west London club having signed from Yorkshire Carnegie in March.
Outside backs Harry Mallinder (Northampton Saints) and Nathan Earle (Saracens), who travelled on England’s tour of Argentina but did not receive caps, are also named in the squad.
Head Coach Eddie Jones is confident ahead of England’s Six Nations opener, saying: “I have selected the strongest available squad to prepare for our opening match against Italy.
“I am expecting a really positive training camp in Portugal and while we have a few players unavailable through injury or suspension, it has provided opportunity for others who will be desperate to be involved in the Italy game.”
BREAKING | Your 35-man squad for England’s @SixNationsRugby opener against Italy 🌹
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) January 18, 2018
Jones will be without England’s influential number eight, Billy Vunipola, who is set to miss the tournament all together with a fractured forearm. The 25-year-old was forced off at half-time in Saracens’ 15-15 draw with Ospreys in the European Champions Cup.
Experienced flanker, James Haskell, is also set miss out on England’s first two Six Nations fixtures after receiving a four-week ban for a dangerous tackle on Jamie Roberts during Wasps’ European Champions Cup defeat to Harlequins on Saturday.
England and Harlequins’ prop, Joe Marler, similarly will be unavailable for the two opening games thanks to a six-week suspension. He will miss the opening match with Italy on Sunday 4th February as well as England’s home fixture against Wales at Twickenham.
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