ENGLAND HEAD COACH Eddie Jones says that the four warm-up matches ahead will allow his side to fine-tune their game and be ready to win the Rugby World Cup for a second time.
The 59-year-old Australian — who was on the receiving end when as head coach of Australia when England won the Webb Ellis trophy in Sydney in 2003 — was speaking after naming a 33-player squad for the first of those games against Six Nations Grand Slam winners Wales at Twickenham on Sunday. And Jones has signalled he will announce his 31-man World Cup squad the following day.
This week’s group retains room for experimentation as it includes four uncapped players. Jack Singleton and Lewis Ludlam join the forward ranks while New Zealand-born scrum-half Willi Heinz and former Sevens star Ruaridh McConnochie are among the backs.
Jones has released back to their clubs experienced fullback Mike Brown, Lions centre Ben Te’o, uncapped back row Alex Dombrandt and scrum-half Ben Spencer, who was pivotal to Saracens winning the European Champions Cup and English Premiership double last term.
While Mako Vunipola is not in contention to play against Wales, he is included in the 33-man squad. Exeter Chiefs’ wing Jack Nowell is not in the group as he continues rehabilitation after suffering an ankle injury in the Premiership final.
“We have worked hard (at a training camp in Treviso) and now move into a four-game preparation phase where the development of the team tactically is paramount,” said Jones in a RFU statement.
“We are grateful for the strong opposition to test our game fitness.
“We are not there yet but we have four games to get ready.”
Jones, who guided England to two Six Nations titles including the 2016 Grand Slam since he took over after they exited the 2015 World Cup in the pool stage, said there was still hope for those players omitted from this squad to make the plane for Japan.
“Players excluded from being involved in this camp are naturally disappointed but may get another opportunity so they must be ready,” he said.
England play a return match against Wales on August 17 in Cardiff followed by games against Ireland (August 24), and Italy (September 6) prior to departure for Japan.
Once there, England will begin their World Cup campaign against Tonga in Sapporo (September 22) before playing the United States in Kobe (September 26), 2015 semi-finalists Argentina in Tokyo (October 5) and round off their pool matches against old foes France in Yokohama (October 12).
England squad v Wales:
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Forwards: Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers) Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs) Tom Curry (Sale Sharks) Charlie Ewels (Bath) Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers) Jamie George (Saracens) Maro Itoje (Saracens) George Kruis (Saracens) Joe Launchbury (Wasps) Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints) Joe Marler (Harlequins) Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins) Jack Singleton (Saracens) Sam Underhill (Bath) Billy Vunipola (Saracens) Mako Vunipola (Saracens) Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs) Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons/Sale Sharks)
Backs: Joe Cokanasiga (Bath) Elliot Daly (Saracens) Owen Farrell (Saracens) George Ford (Leicester Tigers) Piers Francis (Northampton Saints) Willi Heinz (Gloucester) Jonathan Joseph (Bath) Joe Marchant (Harlequins) Jonny May (Leicester Tigers) Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath) Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers) Anthony Watson (Bath) Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
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