England’s Dylan Hartley out of Six Nations opener with Ireland
Co-captain Owen Farrell to lead Eddie Jones’s side in Dublin with hooker Hartley injured
Owen Farrell will lead England in Dublin with Dylan Hartley out injured. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Dylan Hartley has been omitted from England’s Six Nations squad due to injury and will miss their opening fixture against Ireland next month. Hartley has not played for Northampton since December 21st because of a knee problem and Eddie Jones has revealed he will not travel to England’s training camp in Portugal next week as a result.
In his place Luke Cowan-Dickie is included in a 35-man squad, as is Jack Singleton, who is one of four uncapped members of the squad along with Ollie Thorley, Dan Robson and Ben Earl. There are also recalls for Jack Clifford and Ollie Devoto while Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Ellis Genge and Joe Launchbury all return having missed the autumn internationals through injury.
There is no place for Chris Robshaw, who is listed as unavailable due injury, nor Danny Care who is not. Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson are also still out with injury but Joe Cokanasiga has recovered from a knee injury to take his place after winning his first two caps during the autumn. Mike Brown and Dan Cole are also included despite falling out of favour last year, as is Manu Tuilagi who is set for his first Six Nations appearance since 2016.
In Hartley’s absence, Owen Farrell has been named as captain, as was the case during last summer’s tour of South Africa. Northampton have not put a time frame on Hartley’s return, with the director of rugby Chris Boyd describing the injury as a “grumbling knee” but Jones is hopeful the hooker does still play some part in England’s campaign. He said: “Unfortunately, Dylan won’t be available for the Ireland game so we won’t take him to Portugal but we are hopeful he will be back later in the Championship. Owen will be captain by himself and he will certainly have great support from a number of players.”
The winger Thorley, 22, is rewarded for his fine season with Gloucester while Robson is now finally set for his first cap as one of just two scrum-halves in the squad. Earl has caught the eye in Saracens’ back-row this season and also toured South Africa last summer while Singleton has been included by Jones before, as a non-playing member of the squad that travelled to Argentina in 2016.
It is the returns of the Vunipola brothers as well as Launchbury and Cole, who has looked back to his best in recent weeks for Leicester, and the 223 caps worth of experience they bring that will please Jones most however as he prepares for the trip to Dublin on February 2nd. “Ireland is the best side in the world. They are a very well coached and drilled side and have particular things they do well in the game. To beat Ireland, we need to compete brutally in all the contest areas of the game.”
Clifford’s recall is somewhat of a surprise but Jones identified him early in his tenure and the Harlequins back-row has been blighted by injury problems since then. He has not featured for England since February 2017 but has a 100% winning record from his 10 caps. Exeter’s Devoto meanwhile, has won only one cap, against Wales, in 2016. Zach Mercer meanwhile, is among the players who featured during the autumn to miss out, as is Alex Lozowski while there is still no place for Danny Cipriani.
England Six Nations training squad:
Forwards: Jack Clifford (Harlequins) Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers) Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs) Tom Curry (Sale Sharks) Ben Earl (Saracens) * Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers) Jamie George (Saracens) Nathan Hughes (Wasps) Maro Itoje (Saracens) George Kruis (Saracens) Joe Launchbury (Wasps) Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) Ben Moon (Exeter Chiefs) Brad Shields (Wasps) Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins) Jack Singleton (Worcester Warriors) * Billy Vunipola (Saracens) Mako Vunipola (Saracens) Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs) Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons).
Backs: Chris Ashton (Sale Sharks) Mike Brown (Harlequins) Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby) Elliot Daly (Wasps) Ollie Devoto (Exeter Chiefs) Owen Farrell (Saracens) captain George Ford (Leicester Tigers) Jonny May (Leicester Tigers) Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs) Dan Robson (Wasps) * Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors) Ollie Thorley (Gloucester Rugby) * Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers) Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers) *Uncapped.