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England Six Nations Squad 2018: Team to play Wales announced

Rugby World

There are eight uncapped players in England's Six Nations squad as coach Eddie Jones throws a few curve balls ahead of the defence of their title


England Six Nations Squad 2018

There were eight uncapped players in England’s initial 35-man squad for the Six Nations – but there are no debutants in the team to play Wales in the second match of the championship. There are two changes to the starting team that beat Italy – Danny Care starts at scrum-half in place of the injured Ben Youngs while Jonathan Joseph comes in for Ben Te’o at outside-centre. Te’o drops to the bench while the only other change to the replacements is Richard Wigglesworth as the back-up scrum-half. Care will become England’s most-capped scrum-half at Twickenham on Saturday, overtaking Matt Dawson’s mark of 77 Tests.

UPDATED: England Team to play Wales in Six Nations – Saturday 10 February

Brown; Watson, Joseph, Farrell, May; Ford, Care; Vunipola, Hartley, Cole, Launchbury, Itoje, Lawes, Robshaw, Simmonds.

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Replacements: George, Hepburn, Williams, Kruis, Underhill, Wigglesworth, Te’o, Nowell

England will be looking to continue the good start to their defence of the championship –  check out the England Six Nations Fixtures.

Related: Six Nations TV Coverage

England Team to play Italy in Six Nations – Sunday 4 February

Brown; Watson, Te’o, Farrell, May; Ford, Youngs; Vunipola, Hartley, Cole, Launchbury, Itoje, Lawes, Robshaw, Simmonds

Replacements: George, Hepburn, Williams, Kruis, Underhill, Care, Joseph, Nowell

Related: Italy 15-46 England match report

Of the eight uncapped players in England’s initial 35-man squad for the Six Nations, Zach Mercer is the headline story. That’s because the Bath back-row has lost the ‘apprentice’ tag applied to him in the autumn and is set to make his Test debut amidst the absence of two established No 8s.

Billy Vunipola, who would vie with Kieran Read for the eight shirt in a World XV, is set to miss the whole tournament after breaking his arm, while back-up Nathan Hughes (knee) is likely to miss at least the first three rounds.

Sam Simmonds, who started at eight in England’s most recent outing, a 48-14 win over Samoa in November, should now get an opportunity to build on his outstanding form for Exeter this season. Mercer, the son of a Kiwi rugby league international, has captained England U20 and like Simmonds could also be deployed at flank forward.

Zach attack: Bath back-row Zach Mercer is in line for his Test debut (Getty) Rugby World

The back-row selection is arguably the most intriguing part of an ever-changing English jigsaw, as injuries and suspensions bite. As well as Vunipola, Wasps’ Elliot Daly and Harlequins prop Joe Marler are others who would have been on duty for the opening match in Italy on Sunday 4 February.

Exeter centre Henry Slade, twice a starter in the autumn, injured a shoulder last weekend and didn’t travel to England’s training camp in Portugal. And Harlequins prop Kyle Sinckler returned home after a possible hamstring strain prevented him training, with Bath’s Henry Thomas flying out to make up the numbers.

Concern: Henry Slade's shoulder injury may make Jonathan Joseph's place at 13 a formality (Getty) Rugby World

Such disruption is all par for the course and in most positions England coach Eddie Jones has copious options. One exception is at loosehead prop, where the unavailability of Marler, Ellis Genge, Matt Mullan and Beno Obano leave England looking worryingly fragile. Mako Vunipola might have to be wrapped in cotton wool.

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Three of the remaining seven uncapped players are front-rowers, with Alec Hepburn, Lewis Boyce and Tom Dunn getting the call, and many observers will hope teenager Marcus Smith gets a run-out sooner than later; with injuries draining Quins’ resources, the fly-half has had to hold the fort for his club and has done so magnificently. He remains a likely squad player for Japan 2019.

At full-back, Harry Mallinder’s selection is another kick in the teeth for Saracens’ Alex Goode, who has been one of the country’s best players for at least three years. Mallinder’s defensive weaknesses would come under fierce scrutiny should he be pitched into championship battle.

New face: Saints' Harry Mallinder is called up as a full-back option – with Alex Goode again ignored Rugby World

More likely, Jones will try to keep changes to a minimum as he embarks on a year that also features a three-Test series in South Africa and a long-awaited clash with the All Blacks next autumn.

England finish the championship with a St Patrick’s Day showdown with Ireland – the only team to beat England during Jones’s reign. The Australian has already fired a shot. “Ireland are dominating European rugby at the moment. Their provincial sides are doing well, their national side has had great success,” Jones said.

Looming landmark: lock Joe Launchbury should win his 50th cap during this Six Nations (Getty) Rugby World

“Everyone talks about their central contracting and how they have their players in fantastic condition. If you read most of the popular press, there’s no reason to turn up. But I think we have a point or two to prove.”

He goes into his third championship on the back of 22 wins from 23 matches and a run of 14 successive home victories – a run bettered only by Clive Woodward’s side from 1999-2003.

England Six Nations Squad 2018

Backs (16)
Mike Brown (Harlequins, 64 caps)
Nathan Earle (Saracens, uncapped)
Harry Mallinder (Northampton, uncapped)
Jonny May (Leicester, 29 caps)
Denny Solomona (Sale, 2 caps)
Anthony Watson (Bath, 28 caps)
Danny Care (Harlequins, 76 caps)
Owen Farrell (Saracens, 53 caps)
George Ford (Leicester, 40 caps)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath, 35 caps)
Alex Lozowski (Saracens, 4 caps)
Jack Nowell (Exeter, 23 caps)
Henry Slade (Exeter, 10 caps)
Ben Te’o (Worcester, 8 caps)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins, uncapped) *
Ben Youngs (Leicester, 73 caps)

Good job, boys: England celebrate one of their seven tries against Samoa in their latest match (Getty) Rugby World

Forwards (19)
Gary Graham (Newcastle, uncapped)
Nick Isiekwe (Saracens, 2 caps)
Maro Itoje (Saracens, 14 caps)
George Kruis (Saracens, 21 caps)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton, 61 caps)
Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 47 caps)
Zach Mercer (Bath, uncapped)
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, 59 caps)
Sam Simmonds (Exeter, 3 caps)
Sam Underhill (Bath, 3 caps)
Lewis Boyce (Harlequins, uncapped)
Dan Cole (Leicester, 77 caps)
Tom Dunn (Bath, uncapped)
Jamie George (Saracens, 20 caps)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton, 80 caps)
Alec Hepburn (Exeter, uncapped)
Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 8 caps)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 44 caps)
Harry Williams (Exeter, 5 caps)

* Apprentice player

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