Eddie Jones named his first England squad since the 2019 World Cup as he plots glory in the forthcoming Guinness Six Nations.
Here, the PA news agency answers the questions arising from the 34-man group picked for the Championship.
How radical have the changes been?
Not very. The only player from England’s World Cup squad who has been categorically dropped is Leicester prop Dan Cole, who was exposed by South Africa’s scrum in the final. Several of the stars in Japan such as Henry Slade, Billy Vunipola and Jack Nowell are injured, but generally it is the same faces with the eight uncapped players unlikely to make much of an impression on the matchday 23.
Did Jones not say his World Cup team was “finished”?
Correct. Immediately after England fell to a 32-12 defeat in Yokohama, Jones declared there would be an overhaul but that has failed to materialise. Big-name casualties beyond Cole were always unlikely as the team that took to the field against South Africa was the youngest to play a World Cup final in the professional era.
Which of the uncapped group could be involved against France?
Ben Earl has a strong chance of being selected for the Paris opener in February and might even make the starting XV. The flanker has been magnificent for Saracens and has all the skills of a classic openside, but Jones sees the powerful 22-year-old as an option at number eight where another broken arm suffered by Vunipola has left a chasm.
Is there an obvious replacement for Vunipola?
Earl could slot in across the back row but his lack of experience may count against him in Paris, leaving Tom Curry and Lewis Ludlam as the other options. Jones has not called up any specialist cover at number eight knowing he has at his disposal three young players who could be involved in the next World Cup in 2023. Curry was magnificent in Japan to the point he was nominated for world player of the year and, alongside Sam Underhill, will be a permanent fixture in the back row for years to come.
Has the Saracens salary cap scandal impacted the squad?
✅ Eight uncapped players✅ 22 players from the RWC✅ Two apprenticeshttps://t.co/HQeUszwyQc
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) January 20, 2020
Not at all – Earl’s selection points to that. Saracens’ players face uncertain club futures but Jones wants their heads cleared in time to take on France and believes he can push the necessary buttons to ensure their only focus is England.