England head coach Eddie Jones has included an uncapped quartet of Ollie Thorley, Ben Earl, Jack Singleton and Dan Robson in his squad for the upcoming Six Nations.
A trip to Dublin to play the reigning champions Ireland awaits Jones and his 35-man squad, but, despite the new faces, England will be without the leadership of 97-time capped Dylan Hartley.
The Northampton Saints hooker has been ruled out of selection through a knee injury, meaning Owen Farrell will captain the side against last year’s Grand Slam winners.
For uncapped Gloucester wing Thorley, his selection represents a step up from his England Under-20 selection for the World Rugby U20 Championship in 2016 – a tournament won by the men in white.
The 22-year-old has made 39 career appearances for his club and is the lone player representing the Cherry and Whites in the Six Nations squad.
As if we needed another excuse to play this again…
Over to new England Rugby call-up, Ollie Thorley! pic.twitter.com/oQSylkeLVE
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) January 17, 2019
Jack Singleton is set to duel with Luke Cowan-Dickie for a spot in the matchday 23, as Jamie George is expected to start in the absence of Hartley.
Worcester Warriors hooker Singleton is yet to see a minute of action on the international scene but has experience of touring with England in Argentina and South Africa.
Saracens flanker Ben Earl is given a chance to state his case as a potential breakthrough player in the England back row after his fine form for the Premiership champions.
The 21-year-old looks set to be the outright holder of Saracens’ no.7 jersey in the long-term and gets his shot in an England team that is without the services of Sam Underhill and Chris Robshaw.
There is no place for Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care with Dan Robson preferred to offer competition to Ben Youngs.
Like Singleton, the Wasps back toured South Africa last June but wasn’t not selected in the three-Test series.
Making his preparations for England’s toughest match of the Six Nations, Jones is boosted by the return from injury of props Mako Vunipola, Ellis Genge, lock Joe Launchbury and no.8 Billy Vunipola. All stand a chance of starting against Ireland on February 2.
Commenting on his squad announcement, Jones shared his content with the players included as they prepare to jet off to Portugal for a pre-tournament training camp.
“We are very happy with the squad and have a number of players who have come back from long-term injury,” said Jones.
“We are looking forward to getting across to Portugal and having a good 10-day preparation for the Ireland game.
He added: “The first thing when we get together as a squad is to get our cohesion back. The players have been playing for their clubs with different styles and different playing philosophies, so it’s about getting them thinking about playing the England way. The second thing is to get our togetherness stronger to work as hard as we can to make sure we are well connected on and off the field so Portugal is an important camp for us.”
On England’s first opponents in the tournament, he said: “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.”
The squad will travel to Portugal on Wednesday 23 January to begin their preparations. A match day squad of 25 will depart for Dublin on Thursday 31 January.
England squad for Ireland Test
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)
Chris Ashton (Sale Sharks)
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby)
Elliot Daly (Wasps)
Ollie Devoto (Exeter Chiefs)
Owen Farrell (Saracens, Capt)
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)
Players unavailable due to injury
Piers Francis (Northampton Saints)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)