Vunipolas among big names missing for England rugby tests

·2 min read

LONDON (AP) — England will enter the November rugby internationals without four of its biggest names after an improvement in club form failed to earn Mako and Billy Vunipola, Jamie George and George Ford recalls to the squad on Monday.

The four players were left out of Eddie Jones' extended training squad last month ahead of test matches against Tonga, Australia and South Africa, despite being mainstays for England since the Australian coach took charge after the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The Vunipola brothers and George reacted to the snub by excelling in Saracens' forward pack in recent weeks, while Ford — England's long-time flyhalf — has been a key factor behind Leicester’s emergence as English Premiership leader after five rounds.

But they remain overlooked, while winger Jack Nowell and scrumhalf Dan Robson also have been jettisoned ahead of a campaign that opens against Tonga at Twickenham on Nov. 6.

“One of the things I'm looking at is those players who've already been to two World Cups, whether they've got the will to prepare to win,” Jones said.

"My experience tells me that some players can want to go to the World Cup but they don't really have the will to prepare to win the World Cup. It did strike me the experience I had with Australia, post 2003. I kept some players on longer than I should have and that's probably weighed in the selection choices that I've made in the last six months with England.

"We could have the most experienced side at the World Cup but whether they've got that will to go that extra 10% and find that discretionary effort ... that's something I'm trying to find out at the moment.”

Marcus Smith is one of eight who made their debuts in the July victories over the U.S. and Canada to survive the cull from 45 to 34 players, with the talented flyhalf’s inclusion coming at Ford’s expense.

While Jones is looking to the future ahead of the 2023 World Cup, some developing prospects have been unable to force their way into contention.

They include Louis Lynagh, the son of Australia great Michael Lynagh, who has been removed after winning a place in the training group last month.

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The Associated Press

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