Chris Robshaw has been left out of England’s Rugby World Cup training squad, four years after captaining the national team into the last World Cup, with Dylan Hartley also absent as he continues to struggle with a persistent knee injury.
Robshaw is the among three high-profile absentees in the squad named by Eddie Jones that will embark on a five-day training camp from Sunday , with veteran scrum-half Danny Care also not selected that leaves 247 international caps missing from the 29-man squad.
Wasps No 8 Nathan Hughes has also been snubbed, while there is no place for Joe Marler as he remains in international retirement.
Hartley, England’s most experienced active player with 97 caps to his name, lead the national team to the 2016 Six Nations Grand Slam and 2017 championship as well as the 18-Test unbeaten streak, but injury this season has seen him share those duties with Owen Farrell.
After Farrell captained last summer’s tour of South Africa, they were named co-captains last autumn before Hartley suffered what was initially described as a “grumbly knee” last December, only for the 33-year-old to require surgery that ruled him out for the rest of the season.
England head coach Jones had hoped for a positive update on Hartley’s condition, but it emerged this week that he is struggling to be fit for September’s World Cup and as a result he has not been included in the first squad named.
Jones has named four players for the first time, though the squad mainly consists of players not involved in the Premiership semi-finals last month, with those players to be added over the course of the next two weeks before the Australian’s final training squad is named on 4 July.
Those uncapped players include breakthrough Harlequins back-row Alex Dombrandt, who only made his professional debut this at the start of this season, as well as Northampton Saints’ Lewis Ludlam. Bath full-back Ruaridh McConnochie is also selected after successfully converting from the England Sevens programme, with Gloucester prop Val Rapava Ruskin also called up.
However, Ludlam and Rapava Ruskin both featured in the Premiership semi-finals four weeks ago, while Dombrandt and Harlequins teammate Marcus Smith, who is also selected, both impressed in an England XV’s victory over the Barbarians just three weeks ago.
The RFU stress that the players who have not been given the mandatory five-week rest period will be will be managed to ensure their post-season active rest periods are fulfilled”, having cleared their selection with Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players Association.
Upon his squad selection, Jones said: “The first two England training camps are designed to improve individual players’ fundamentals to allow them to compete for a place in the Rugby World Cup squad.”
Hartley could yet feature further down the line if his condition improves, but having not played a minute of rugby in the last six months, the prospect of England heading to Japan without their most experienced player is growing likelier by the day. Jones has also called injured Saracens pair Mako Vunipola and George Kruis into the camp for treatment, with Vunipola still recovering from hamstring surgery and Kruis undergoing an operation on his ankle following the Premiership final victory on 1 June.
Jones will name another squad next Friday to include any additional players from Gloucester and Northampton, which could include fly-half Danny Cipriani, before adding the Premiership finalists from Saracens and Exeter on 4 July.
England's preliminary training squad
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks), Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins), Tom Dunn (Bath Rugby), Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby), Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints), Val Rapava Ruskin (Gloucester Rugby), Nick Schonert (Worcester Warriors), Brad Shields (Wasps), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Jack Singleton (Worcester Warriors), Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby), Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons).
Chris Ashton (Sale Sharks), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby), Elliot Daly (Wasps), George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Jonny May (Leicester Tigers), Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath Rugby), Dan Robson (Wasps), Marcus Smith (Harlequins), Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers).
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