Eddie Jones has axed Lions Jonathan Joseph and Kyle Sinckler from the England squad and challenged the players to earn a recall for the Autumn tests with Argentina, Australia and Samoa.
Sinckler made the Lions test squad while Joseph did not deliver his best form on the tour of New Zealand and lack lustre performances for Bath this season have seen him dumped along with the Harlequins prop from the 33 man squad which assembles in Oxford on Sunday for a three day camp.
Sinckler and Joseph are joined by fellow Lions George Kruis and James Haskell, who are both just back from injury, in being left out of the squad but there are call ups for the uncapped duo of Marcus Smith, the 18-year-old Harlequins outside half, and Bath hooker Tom Dunn.
Jones is attempting to play down the significance of Smith’s inclusion insisting he is fifth choice outside half but he is, in effect, third behind George Ford and Alex Lozowski.
Jones, who has lost just one of his 20 England games, said:” This is a training squad and we will assess selection for Argentina down the line. For each of the Lions players we will assess them and are chatting to their clubs, looking at their form and mentally and physically to see what is best for them. Some guys need to work on their games and we have had those discussions with them and others are coming back from injury and need game time. Marcus Smith is an apprentice and has come to learn about the game and so don’t get too excited.
“ He is going to be holding some bags and he is an apprentice – cleaning boots. He is fifth choice No10 at the moment and he will be good at shining George Ford’s boots! The players in this squad have a head start in terms of the Argentina match but If things change others could be in the squad for Argentina. Denny Solomona has work to do on his game and maybe on his drinking games as well. “
Kruis and Haskell have only just returned from injury while Solomona who was thrown out of the August training camp for staying out late with the injured Manu Tuilagi, who is also missing from the squad.
Smith, just 18-years-old, has impressed head coach Jones with his ability to handle the pressure of Premiership rugby and there are also call ups for Exeter prop Harry Williams, Bath flanker Sam Underhill and Saracens lock Nick Isiekwe who shone on his debut in Argentina in the summer.
Nick Evans believes Smith has the mental strength to handle the pressure of being the next big thing in English rugby and the outside half will be making his third start of the season for Quins against Leicester tomorrow with the added pressure of having been named in the England squad.
Former All Black No10 Evans, who retired as Quins record points scorer last season and is now coaching Smith and the club’s backs, said: “I am sure people have got him earmarked as the next big thing and he has to go through all the steps to gain the experience that will be needed. Marcus is a good kid, wants to learn and is at the start of hopefully a great career and there is a lot of hard work for him to do to get to the top
“ It is hard one because there is always going to be attention on a player in the media who is talked about as being the next big thing in rugby, football, cricket or any sport. You understand that players have different personalities and Kyle Sinckler is different to Marcus Smith. Marcus can handle some things while Kyle handles other things more robustly that Marcus can. Growing up in New Zealand I was made very aware that I was part of a team sport and that is something that I believe in very strongly.
“It is not like cricket where individuals play in a team; rugby cannot have 13 and two individuals and you need to buy into everything and with social media putting players on pedestals, it is easy to lose sight of that. If he wants higher honours then we have to play well as a team.”
Jones admits the players named in the 33 man squad have an advantage going into the Argentina match on November 11 and added:” These players have a head start but there are no guarantees.”