Sport Rugby

Friday 23 February 2018

Eddie Jones omits James Haskell from England squad because he 'just not playing well enough'

England back-row James Haskell
England back-row James Haskell

Duncan Bech

James Haskell has been omitted from England's squad for next month's autumn series after losing out to rising Exeter star Sam Simmonds.

Veteran Wasps flanker Haskell, who has 75 caps and toured New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions during the summer, has paid the price for a drop in form having started the season with a hand injury.

Alongside emerging England back rows Sam Underhill and Tom Curry is Simmonds, who is present in an England squad for the first time after impressing for the Chiefs.

There are few surprises among the 34 players who will begin preparations for the Old Mutual Wealth Series opener against Argentina, which takes place on November 11, with Haskell emerging as the biggest casualty.

Marland Yarde of Harlequins is missing from the list of back three players, losing out to Sale's Denny Solomona who is present despite being sent home from England's August training camp for engaging in a late-night drinking session with Manu Tuilagi.

Head coach Eddie Jones has included two names described as 'apprentice players' in Bath back row Zach Mercer and Quins fly-half Marcus Smith.

"Our first match against Argentina is a significant game for England," Jones said.

"Everything we have been doing in our training camps so far this season has been geared around getting the detail right in our preparation on how we want to play and win against them next month.

"This will be the fourth time we have played against Argentina in the last 12 months and the last time we play them before 2019, so we want to make sure our record against them is 4-0."

Jones had stated he might rest those involved in the Lions tour during the summer, but, if available and deemed worthy of selection, all are present among the 34 including Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly.

Joe Marler is left out after receiving a three-week ban for striking, but Nathan Hughes is included after receiving two weeks for the same offence.

Jones has rewarded those players who served him well during the summer tour to Argentina, retaining Piers Francis, Nick Isiekwe, Underhill, Curry and Solomona.

Jones, speaking at the squad announcement press conference in central London, explained the thinking behind the omission of Haskell and Yarde.

"I had a chat to Haskell on Saturday. We had a good chat," Jones said.

"At the moment he's just not playing well enough, but the door isn't shut to him. He's been a great servant to English rugby and I'm sure he can regain his form.

"Sam Simmonds is one of those players who can play six, seven or eight, so that gives us utility value. He'd struggle at eight at international level because of his size, but he could play there.

"We had a look at Marland in regards to Denny in terms of tries scored and the number of tries Denny has scored is far superior. We want a try-scorer on our right wing."

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