England cut Chris Ashton from World Cup squad
Published 07/08/2015 | 18:35
Chris Ashton is one of seven players dropped from England's training squad as head coach Stuart Lancaster closes in on the final 31 who will carry the nation's hopes at the home World Cup.
Ashton is the highest-profile casualty, while fellow wings Semesa Rokoduguni and Marland Yarde, centre Kyle Eastmond, scrum-half Lee Dickson, flanker Matt Kvesic and prop Matt Mullan have also been dropped.
The departures reduce the number of players who will be returning to the squad's training camp at Pennyhill Park to 39, with August 31 the deadline for Lancaster to name his final 31-man party for England 2015.
"It has been difficult to narrow down the squad as everyone has contributed and given their all," Lancaster said.
"But what I've said to those guys who are not coming back in on Sunday is that the door is not closed by any means.
"They are only an injury away and there is a lot of international rugby to be played this season, culminating in a three-Test tour to Australia."
The removal of Ashton, Yarde and Rokoduguni leaves England with only three wings left in contention with Anthony Watson, Jack Nowell and Jonny May the trio who will return to camp on Sunday.
All three now look set to be picked for the World Cup squad, unless Lancaster makes the surprise move of naming Mike Brown as a wing, enabling him to squeeze both Danny Cipriani and Alex Goode into his final 31.
Eastmond was expected to be among those axed given he is competing with the uncapped Sam Burgess and Henry Slade, a pair who England want to see in action at inside centre during the warm-up games against France before making a call.
England have their contingent of scrum-halves now that Dickson has gone, leaving Ben Youngs, Richard Wigglesworth and Danny Care on course to make the final cut.
Only two forwards have been jettisoned with Kvesic and Mullan losing out amid the fierce competition in the back and front rows where the Red Rose have a host of options.
Among those is number eight Nick Easter, who remains with the squad after recovering from the back injury that prevented him from travelling to Denver last month for the two-week training camp at altitude.
Easter, who Lancaster revealed earlier this week is behind his team-mates in conditioning terms due to his spell in the treatment room, was thought to be among those most in danger of losing out, but he has been retained as Ben Morgan seeks to prove his fitness after recovering from a broken leg.
"Overall we are in good shape. Both Nick Easter and Ben Morgan are now fit and we want to give them both opportunities to train fully and prove their form and fitness next week," Lancaster said.
"We had a great two-week camp in Denver where the entire squad worked extremely hard and were exceptional in the way they went about the training. That has continued this week and competition for places has been very intense."