England have named eight uncapped players in a 35-man squad selected to prepare for the NatWest Six Nations opener against Italy on February 4.
A succession of injuries and suspensions – including to star players Billy Vunipola, Elliot Daly, and Nathan Hughes – have forced Eddie Jones to bring in a host of new faces.
Saracens wing Nathan Earle, Northampton centre Harry Mallinder, and Harlequins full-back Marcus Smith are the rookie backs included.
Exeter prop Alec Hepburn, Harlequins prop Lewis Boyce, Newcastle flanker Gary Graham, Bath back row Zach Mercer, and Bath hooker Tom Dunn make up the new faces in the forwards.
Mercer is no longer included as an apprentice in recognition of the injuries at number eight to Vunipola and Hughes, leaving Smith as the only player featuring in that capacity.
The training squad, which is absent of big-name omissions other than those who are unavailable, will travel to Portugal on Sunday to begin a week-long camp as build up to the trip to Rome.
“I’ve selected the strongest available squad to prepare for our opening match against Italy,” said Jones, who on Wednesday signed a contract extension until 2021.
“It’s important we start the tournament well and we will spend the next two weeks training smart and really fine-tuning our gameplan for the Italy match next month.
“I’m expecting a really positive training camp in Portugal and while we have a few players unavailable through injury or suspension, it has provided opportunity for others who will be desperate to be involved in the Italy game.”
James Haskell's participation in the tournament is also in doubt as he will miss the first two matches due to suspension.
England will be looking to retain the Six Nations title, which they won comfortably last year, and it would be the perfect present for Jones, who has just signed a new long-term deal.
The squad in full can be found below.
Backs: Mike Brown, Danny Care, Nathan Earle, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph, Alex Lozowski, Harry Mallinder, Jonny May, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Marcus Smith, Denny Solomona, Ben Te'o, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.
Forwards: Lewis Boyce, Dan Cole, Tom Dunn, Jamie George, Gary Graham, Dylan Hartley, Alec Hepburn, Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, Zach Mercer, Chris Robshaw, Sam Simmonds, Kyle Sinckler, Sam Underhill, Mako Vunipola, Harry Williams.
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