Eddie Jones has named his England squad for this year’s Six Nations with 10 absentees from last autumn’s World Cup and eight uncapped players getting a call-up.
Jack Nowell is one of the high-profile casualties, excluded from the 34-name line-up having featured for Exeter in Saturday’s Champions Cup win over La Rochelle.
Henry Slade and Joe Cokanasiga, who are injured, have been left out along with Dan Cole, Jack Singleton, Mark Wilson, Piers Francis, Ruaridh McConnochie and Ben Spencer.
One player Jones has been forced to omit is Billy Vunipola after the 27-year-old broke his arm during Saracens’ victory over Racing 92 on Sunday.
Interestingly, Jones has decided against calling up specialist number eight cover in his absence with Sam Simmonds, Alex Dombrandt and Nathan Hughes all overlooked.
With 51 international caps to his name, Vunipola featured in all of England’s games in the run-up to November’s World Cup final appearance and so being without him, forced off after only six-minute of the Champions Cup clash, is a blow.
Northampton duo Fraser Dingwall and Alex Moon are two surprise selections in the squad along with another six players yet to make their England debut: Tom Dunn, Ben Earl, Ollie Thorley, George Furbank, Will Stuart and Jacob Umaga.
Saracens players Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Mako Vunipola, Elliot Daly, Jamie George and George Kruis have all been selected in the week the defending champions were told they will be relegated for persistent salary cap breaches.
“It is always about winning the next game so we have picked the best squad available,” Jones said of his selection to the England Rugby website.
“At the same time, we wanted to bring some young players in because we need to keep building our depth so for those new players it is an exciting opportunity for them.”
“The Guinness Six Nations for us is all about raising the standards in terms of the way we prepare, tactically and physically how we play the game, and the way we come together off the field," he added.
“But our first task is beating France in France and that is the only game we need to worry about. We will begin our preparations in Portugal, get a bit of sun, some warm conditions and get ourselves physically and mentally right for the game.
“The first three days will be about getting organised. We have got players from 11 clubs so we need to get everyone on the same page quickly, spend a lot of time working on our togetherness and then by Tuesday next week we are in Test preparation for France.”
England kick-off their Six Nations campaign against France on Sunday February 2 and the tournament will run until March 14.