Eddie Jones tells dropped England stars to find best form or miss out on World Cup

Jones has omitted Billy and Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and George Ford from a 45-man training group

Duncan Bech
Tuesday 21 September 2021 11:21
<p>Eddie Jones has left out George Ford </p>

Eddie Jones has left out George Ford

Eddie Jones has told the quartet of senior internationals purged from his England squad to rediscover their best form or risk missing out on the 2023 World Cup.

Jones has omitted Billy and Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and George Ford from a 45-man training group that will gather on Sunday for a brief camp ahead of Tests against Tonga, Australia and South Africa in November.

It is the most radical removal of seasoned veterans of the Jones era with Ford, alongside Owen Farrell the head coach’s most trusted lieutenant, emerging as the biggest casualty.

The Leicester fly-half has lost out to Marcus Smith, who is now challenging Farrell for the role of chief conductor for the visit of Tonga to Twickenham on 6 November.

Billy Vunipola has been the cornerstone of England’s back row since Jones took over in 2016 but is no longer the force that once scattered defenders, while his elder brother Mako had a mixed Lions tour to South Africa.

Jamie George is another Saracen who failed to make an impact for Warren Gatland over the summer, continuing a slump evident in the Six Nations when Luke Cowan-Dickie was installed as first-choice hooker.

Elliot Daly is also missing but his absence is explained by an operation to a stress fracture that means he will miss the entire autumn.

All could yet feature again for England, but in jettisoning them at what he views as a critical juncture in his planning for France 2023, Jones has fired a warning shot across the bows.

“For those players the door’s not closed, it’s just an opportunity for them to refresh and refocus,” Jones said.

“They need to get back to their best. They probably haven’t been at their best over the last period of time, so we are giving them the opportunity to find their best.

“They’re all good players. When they are at their best, they are going to be in strong contention. But there’s a lot of good young players coming through so the competition is hot.

“We are now selecting with the World Cup in mind. Almost after the Lions tour you draw bit of a line in the sand because then you’re in the last two years before the World Cup and everything you do counts.”