(Reuters) - England’s first-choice fullback Elliot Daly has rejoined the squad for the Autumn Nations Cup after recovering from injury but winger Anthony Watson will miss at least next weekend’s opener against Georgia, coach Eddie Jones said on Saturday.
Daly missed last week’s Six Nations deciding victory over Italy due to a leg problem, with George Furbank stepping in.
Prop Joe Marler also returns, while flyhalf George Ford will continue his rehabilitation with the squad but is unlikely to feature next week. Countering that news is the absence of Watson, who suffered an ankle injury in Rome.
With back-up scrumhalf Willi Heinz also injured, Alex Mitchell has been added to the 36-man squad but hooker Jack Singleton is another injury absence.
Billy Vunipola is set to join up with his team mates on Sunday, after the birth of his son earlier this week.
England have played Georgia only twice - comfortable wins in the 2003 and 2011 World Cups - but they did have a feisty training session with them in February last year when some scrum sessions exploded into fisticuffs.
“They had a hit out against Scotland (a 48-7 defeat) a couple of weeks ago and we anticipate they will be a bit more prepared for our game,” coach Eddie Jones told a virtual news conference on Saturday.
England trained in London earlier in the day but Jones said he would start thinking about Georgia only on Monday.
“It’s obviously a big opportunity for them to prove their case to be (part) of the European showpiece in terms of the Six Nations,” he said.
After Georgia, England host Ireland a week later. They will then play Wales in Llanelli before a final game at Twickenham on Dec. 6 when they face the corresponding finisher from the other Nations Cup group - either France, Scotland, Fiji or Italy.
That run of matches would point to next week being the ideal opportunity for Jones to give game time to some of the uncapped and inexperienced men in the squad -- such as Premiership player of the year Jack Willis -- but the Australian stuck to his usual line about picking the “best team to win the match”.
“Everyone has to earn their spot,” said Jones. “We’re not giving out caps willy-nilly, that’s not the way we do it. We are picking players for test rugby.”
The upcoming games replace originally planned fixtures with New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Tonga which fell foul of the COVID-19 pandemic.
England squad: Backs - Joe Cokanasiga; Elliot Daly; Owen Farrell; George Furbank; Jonathan Joseph; Ollie Lawrence; Max Malins; Joe Marchant; Jonny May; Alex Mitchell; Dan Robson; Henry Slade; Ollie Thorley; Jacob Umaga; Ben Youngs.
Forwards - Tom Curry; Tom Dunn; Ben Earl; Charlie Ewels; Ellis Genge; Jamie George; Jonny Hill; Ted Hill; Maro Itoje; Joe Launchbury; Lewis Ludlam; Joe Marler; Beno Obano; David Ribbans; Kyle Sinckler; Will Stuart; Sam Underhill; Billy Vunipola; Mako Vunipola; Harry Williams; Jack Willis.
Reporting by Simon Jennings and Mitch Phillips; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris
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