LONDON (Reuters) - England coach Eddie Jones included eight uncapped players but retained the bulk of his World Cup group when he named a 34-man squad for the Six Nations championship on Monday.
Jones included 22 players involved in Japan, where England lost in the final to South Africa, but several of the absentees are carrying injuries, including number eight Billy Vunipola, who broke his arm for the fourth time on Sunday, and Jack Nowell who played for Exeter on Saturday but now needs ankle surgery.
Prop Dan Cole, who had a torrid time in the final against the Springboks, was an expected omission, with Jack Singleton, and Ruaridh McConnochie also fit, but overlooked.
Of the uncapped group, Tom Dunn, Ben Earl and Ollie Thorley have been involved in previous squads, while Fraser Dingwall, George Furbank, Alex Moon, Will Stuart and Jacob Umaga are called up for the first time. Wasps flyhalf Umaga, nephew of former New Zealand captain Tana, is included ahead of Harlequins’ Marcus Smith
Jones has stuck with his policy of including only two scrumhalves – Ben Youngs and Willi Heinz – which means there is no place for Saracens’ Ben Spencer, who was given an emergency last-minute World Cup call-up ahead of the final and came on in the final stages.
Even though Vunipola is injured, there is no obvious replacement at number eight, as Alex Dombrandt, Sam Simmonds and Nathan Hughes were all overlooked. Flankers Tom Curry, Lewis Ludlam and Earl look next in line.
Josh Hodge, who plays in the second tier Championship, and Alex Mitchell have also been called up as apprentices and will train with the squad.
“The Guinness Six Nations for us is all about raising the standards in terms of the way we prepare, tactically and physically how we play the game, and the way we come together off the field,” Jones said in a statement.
“But our first task is beating France (in Paris on Feb. 2) and that is the only game we need to worry about. We have got players from 11 clubs so we need to get everyone on the same page quickly, spend a lot of time working on our togetherness.
England will travel to their warm weather training base in Portugal on Thursday, from where they will go direct to Paris.
They have not won the championship since 2017, finishing second last season and a distant fifth in 2018.
England Six Nations squad:
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 21 caps)
Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 19 caps)
Tom Dunn (Bath Rugby, uncapped)
Ben Earl (Saracens, uncapped)
Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)
Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 14 caps)
Jamie George (Saracens, 45 caps)
Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors, 1 cap)
Maro Itoje (Saracens, 34 caps)
George Kruis (Saracens, 41 caps)
Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 62 caps)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 81 caps)
Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 6 caps)
Joe Marler (Harlequins, 68 caps)
Alex Moon (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 31 caps)
Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, uncapped)
Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 15 caps)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 58 caps)
Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, 18 caps).
Elliot Daly (Saracens, 39 caps)
Ollie Devoto (Exeter Chiefs, 1 cap)
Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Owen Farrell (Saracens, 79 caps)
George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 65 caps)
George Furbank (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Willi Heinz (Gloucester Rugby, 9 caps)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 47 caps)
Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 52 caps)
Ollie Thorley (Gloucester Rugby, uncapped)
Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 40 caps)
Jacob Umaga (Wasps, uncapped)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 42 caps)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 95 caps)
Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)
Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Gareth Jones