England names bloated squad ahead of Six Nations finale
Eddie Jones retains 29-man squad for training session before numbers are cut
Elliot Daly, who suffered a foot injury against France, is among those named in the 29-man squad. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Dylan Hartley and Elliot Daly have been given an extra 24 hours in their efforts to prove their fitness to face Ireland on Saturday after England last night named a bloated squad for their final Six Nations match.
Hartley and Daly are progressing from calf and foot injuries respectively but face a race against time as England seek to avoid three consecutive Six Nations defeats for the first time since 2006. England traditionally name a squad of 25 four days before a match – the 23-man squad and two reserves – but have taken the decision to retain 29 players for today’s training session. Hartley and Daly will be further assessed before Eddie Jones cuts his squad again tonight.
Jones has already said Hartley, his captain for all but two of his 27 Tests in charge, will come back into the side if he is declared fit but is keeping his options open with Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie also retained. Daly, meanwhile, has undergone a scan on an injury after he was seen wearing a protective boot on Monday.
His absence would most likely lead to the return of Mike Brown but Daly was among the few bright sparks in England’s backline against France, having just returned from ankle and calf injuries. Denny Solomona and Nathan Earle have also remained with the squad.
Staying in camp
Of the 32 players named on Sunday only Henry Slade, Alec Hepburn and Nick Isiekwe have returned to their clubs with Don Armand staying in camp. Armand appears to be in direct competition for the No 8 jersey with his Exeter team-mate Sam Simmonds, who has admitted England have been mentally affected by their failure to resolve the problems at the breakdown against France, which surfaced in the defeat by Scotland two weeks earlier.
“It would play on your mind, that the work we did in the fallow week and then leading up to France, you could say it didn’t help,” Simmonds said. “But you have to carry on with it and we are working towards the goal of being the top team in Europe and the world.”
If Simmonds does start in place of the injured Nathan Hughes, England would be losing nearly four stone at No 8 but the Exeter back-row does not believe physicality is cause for a concern. “I knew how physical a French side would be. It was and it didn’t disappoint,” said Simmonds. “As you saw watching, it was as physical as you get. But I think we came out on top – we had areas of the game where we were more physical and we fronted up in set piece.”