Zach Mercer and Danny Care included in England World Cup training squad

Exeter back-row forward Sam Simmonds has ruled himself out of World Cup selection.

Andrew Baldock
Monday 12 June 2023 09:32 BST
Zach Mercer and Danny Care (PA)
Zach Mercer and Danny Care (PA)

Zach Mercer and Danny Care have been selected in England’s first World Cup training squad of the summer.

Number eight Mercer, who will move to Gloucester from Montpellier next season, last played Test rugby in 2018.

But Exeter back-row forward Sam Simmonds – signed by Montpellier as Mercer’s replacement – has ruled himself out of World Cup contention following discussions with England head coach Steve Borthwick.

Simmonds joins another Exeter player – wing Jack Nowell – in making that decision. Nowell is set to join reigning European champions La Rochelle.

Mercer’s stint in France, which included him winning Top 14 player-of-the-season honours, meant he was not eligible for England selection.

Harlequins scrum-half Care, meanwhile, won the last of his 87 England caps on tour in Australia a year ago.

There are also places for Bath scrum-half Ben Spencer in a 28-player group, alongside the likes of Bristol number nine Harry Randall, Bath flanker Ted Hill, Quins prop Joe Marler and London Irish flanker Tom Pearson.

Irish last week filed for administration following their suspension from all club competitions by the Rugby Football Union.

The RFU confirmed that neither Irish’s owner Mick Crossan nor an American consortium planning to buy the club were able to prove they had the finances to compete in the Gallagher Premiership for the 2023-24 campaign.

All four Exiles players in the squad – Pearson, Ollie Hassell-Collins, Henry Arundell and Will Joseph – wanted to be listed on the official squad press release as London Irish players.

Former Wasps lock Joe Launchbury, meanwhile, was not considered due to a minor injury.

The World Cup is full of top-quality teams and high-quality players, and we are relishing the challenge in front of us

England head coach Steve Borthwick

Borthwick’s group, which assembled in Surrey on Monday, does not include players from Premiership semi-finalists Saracens, Sale, Northampton and Leicester, who are on rest periods.

Three players – Saracens number eight Billy Vunipola, Leicester forward Ollie Chessum and Exeter hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie – will also attend the camp to continue their rehabilitation from injury.

Borthwick said: “We are excited to get into camp and begin the first phase of our preparations.

“The World Cup is full of top-quality teams and high-quality players, and we are relishing the challenge in front of us.

“We have lots to get through before our first summer series fixture in August against Wales in Cardiff, so the hard work starts now. We are looking forward to it.”

Borthwick’s men face Wales twice, Ireland and Fiji in August before launching their World Cup campaign against Argentina in Marseille on September 9.

The final England World Cup squad of 33 players will be announced on August 7.

England training squad: Backs – H Arundell (London Irish), D Care (Harlequins), J Cokanasiga (Bath), O Hassell-Collins (London Irish), W Joseph (London Irish), O Lawrence (Bath), J Marchant (Harlequins), J May (Gloucester), C Murley (Harlequins), H Randall (Bristol), H Slade (Exeter), M Smith (Harlequins), B Spencer (Bath).

Forwards – J Blamire (Newcastle), A Dombrandt (Harlequins), T Dunn (Bath), C Ewels (Bath), E Genge (Bristol), T Hill (Bath), J Marler (Harlequins), Z Mercer (Montpellier), B Obano (Bath), T Pearson (London Irish), V Rapa-Ruskin (Gloucester), K Sinckler (Bristol), W Stuart (Bath), S Underhill (Bath), J Walker (Harlequins).

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in