Six Nations 2018: England Trims Squad for Italy

Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones

England head coach Eddie Jones has retained 25 players ahead of England’s first NatWest 6 Nations match against Italy in Rome on Sunday 4 February 3pm KO GMT.


Full backs
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Nathan Earle (Saracens)
Jonny May (Leicester Tigers)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)

Inside backs
Danny Care (Harlequins)
Owen Farrell (Saracens)
George Ford (Leicester Tigers)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)


Back five
Gary Graham (Newcastle Falcons) *
Maro Itoje (Saracens)
George Kruis (Saracens)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Joe Launchbury (Wasps)
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs)
Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby)

Front row
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Jamie George (Saracens)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs) *
Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs)

By my reckoning, that means those released are:

Harry Mallinder (Northampton Saints)
Denny Solomona (Sale Sharks)
Alex Lozowski (Saracens)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
James Haskell (Wasps)
Nick Isiekwe (Saracens)
Zach Mercer (Bath)
Lewis Boyce (Harlequins)
Tom Dunn (Bath Rugby)
Joe Marler (Harlequins)

Marler and Haskell were obviously unavailable anyway.

16 thoughts on “Six Nations 2018: England Trims Squad for Italy

  1. On Haskell. I have a BOLD prediction. He will become the first centrally contracted player for the RFU. Reckon he will be shared with Bristol.

    Fast Eddie values him for his character and leadership too much to let him pick up a deal in France

    1. That is BOLD. Whilst it would probably be ideal from all parties (Hask has a bit od a pension in old age, Eddie gets to keep his fav person eva around), I can’t see the RFU being so modern. More likely that he’ll get picked up a la Goode for Newcastle or another team that loses a back row to injury.

  2. Interesting Nowell in, think he might still be shy of match ready but who knows. Graham Big shout given isiekwe departure but makes sense If back row balance is important later in game (potentially?). Kruis back in from nowhere, not sure I really get it, rather see James Gaskell but doubt he in mix. Let’s see who carries off 1st phase vs Italy I guess…

  3. No massive surprises really. Makes sense to give Nowell 20 minutes in this game, and hopefully Earle gets his first start too. I’d rest Brown since he isn’t fully fit and there is no need for his solidity against Italy.

    I would assume it’s then a debate for Jones on whether it’s worth giving Graham game time off the bench, or whether he’ll go with all 4 of his locks in the 23?

    1. He’ll probably go for 4 locks given past choices

      Getting tired of this seeming obsession with locks, it does us no favours. Sure having back rows who compete in the line out is a bonus, but they should be back row forwards first and lineout jumpers second, not the other way round.

      1. Bit torn on this still. Part of me agrees, but then I would also ask if Graham is offering much more in the loose than a Itoje or Lawes?

        1. Agree Jacob. I think EJ thinks he has at least 4 class locks but is short of proven quality in the back row, so he is shoehorning Lawes or Itoje into the back row on the basis that they bring at least as much there as any other candidates. I think they have both put in a fair bit of club time at 6 this season?

    2. Jacob, I agree with you about Nowell and Brown. Let Brown fully recover and give Earle a start with Nowell covering midfield off the bench.

      I think a combination of May, Earle and Watson would be too good for Italy. Earle is a big powerful winger with quick feet and a good boot. We would also have a back three who can all cover full back if needed.

  4. Pablito, debateable. Where did England’s tries come from last year. Outstanding starter possession from lineout….

    1. That’s an interesting argument and I wondered if you might be right. So ‘cos I am eating lunch I watched all England’s tries last year on youtube.

      Of 33 tries scored, 4 came directly from lineouts – 3 of which were during the Scotland game.

      I think you could probably add another 4 or 5 that came from a secondary or tertiary phase after the lineout. But they are completely outweighed by the number of tries scored from other parts of the game.

      So I’m afraid the facts fdon’t support that argument.

      Of course clean line out possession is important, but we should be able to do that with just 2 locks on the field. We lose more by not having a specialist flanker than we gain by having another expert line out jumper.

      England’s work at the breakdown last year was shaky throughout the 6 nations and a key component behind the loss to Ireland. I’d suggest that one of the main reasons for that was the lack of a specialist 6 and the replacement by a lock

  5. Should we read anything into Nowell being named among the “inside backs” or is this just a listing convention I was unaware of? He (and Woodburn) seem to pop up in midfield a lot for Exeter, albeit with 11 and 14 still on their shirts; will Eddie officially bring him on at 13?

    1. Yes, I have heard and read a few times that Eddie is going to try Nowell at 13 during the tournament.

      Rumour has it, he’ll be on the bench for Sunday and come on at 13 in the last quarter.

      1. He’s played quite a lot at 13 for Exeter and is very competent in the midfield. A dynamic runner who can open up space for the outside backs. Also a good kick chaser!


Comments are closed.