Billy Vunipola set to be left out of England's 45-man training squad

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Billy Vunipola of Saracens looks on as he warms up prior to the Pre-Season friendly match between Saracens and Ulster at StoneX Stadium on September 09, 2021 in Barnet, England. - GETTY IMAGES
Billy Vunipola of Saracens looks on as he warms up prior to the Pre-Season friendly match between Saracens and Ulster at StoneX Stadium on September 09, 2021 in Barnet, England. - GETTY IMAGES

Billy Vunipola is set to be left out of England’s training squad on Tuesday as head coach Eddie Jones looks to shake-up his selection entering the two-year countdown to the 2023 World Cup.

Telegraph Sport understands that fly-half George Ford, prop Mako Vunipola and utility back Elliot Daly are also at risk of missing out despite Jones announcing an enlarged 45-man squad for a two-day get-together at the start of next week. Their omissions would not preclude their selection for the autumn internationals against Australia, Tonga and South Africa, however they would send a very strong message that Jones is no longer prepared to keep faith with the cohort of players that reached the 2019 World Cup final. All four players have been virtual ever-presents in England squads since Jones took over.

After coming fifth in this year’s Six Nations, which equalled England’s worst ever finish, and handing out 16 new caps in the summer internationals against USA and Canada, Jones seems set to turn a new leaf in selection. In the place of the Vunipola, Harlequins’ Alex Dombrandt, Exeter’s Sam Simmonds and Newcastle’s Callum Chick are in line to receive call ups as No 8 options. Vunipola has struggled for form this year, missing out on Lions selection, and despite a summer off looked rusty in Saracens’ opening victory away to Bristol in front of Jones at Ashton Gate on Friday night.

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After scoring a hat-trick on his debut against Canada, Newcastle wing Adam Radwan will also be included. The Newcastle wing, who has Egyptian ancestry, again showcased his devastating footwork in the Falcons’ defeat to Harlequins on Sunday. Other young guns who are understood to have made the cut include Freddie Steward, the Leicester full-back who was seriously impressive against Exeter Chiefs, and the uncapped Sale Sharks pair Raffi Quirke and Bevan Rodd.

At the opposite end of the age spectrum, there is a strong suggestion that Jones was considering a recall for Joe Marler, the 31-year-old Harlequins loosehead who has pulled out of previous England camps at the expense of Mako Vunipola, who toured with the Lions. Manu Tuilagi is also set to be included after his long line of injury problems. Elliot Daly started the Lions’ only victory against South Africa where he was deployed at outside centre, but is understood not to be fully fit.

Jones will be able to call upon the rest of his Lions contingent for the training camp which will take place at the Lensbury Club in Teddington from Sunday through to Tuesday. The assembled players will meet the new coaching team including attack Martin Gleeson and forwards coach Richard Cockerill for the first time.

The camp will only have one training session on Tuesday morning. Instead the focus will be on Jones setting the direction of travel having past the midway point in this current World Cup cycle. In that respect, the prospect of Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith moving ahead of Ford, who was outstanding in Leicester’s 34-19 victory against Exeter Chiefs on Saturday, would represent a symbolic changing of the guard.

 Marcus Smith of England celebrates scoring his sides 6th try during the Summer International between England and USA at Twickenham Stadium on July 04, 2021 in London, England. - GETTY IMAGES
Marcus Smith of England celebrates scoring his sides 6th try during the Summer International between England and USA at Twickenham Stadium on July 04, 2021 in London, England. - GETTY IMAGES

Smith enjoyed an outstanding end to last season, guiding Harlequins to the Premiership title and earning a call-up to the Lions as injury cover moments after making his debut for England. Ford has been one of Jones’ key lieutenants since taking over as England head coach. Together with his boyhood friend Owen Farrell, Ford almost operates as a de-facto attack coach.

As he proved against Exeter, Ford is far from a fading force and undoubtedly Jones will be looking to play some mind games by lighting a fire in the bellies of his senior lieutenants. In January, Jones was criticised for being too loyal, especially to the cadre of Saracens players who came into the Six Nations undercooked. Now he appears to have gone the other way, whether to elicit a reaction or to turn an important page in his six year reign as England head coach.

'Spoon-fed' young to be turned into next generation of England captains

By Gavin Mairs

The Rugby Football Union’s new development pathway to bring through the next supply line of elite players will have a key focus on identifying future England captains to address a leadership deficit caused by a “spoon-fed” generation.

Eddie Jones, the England head coach, will on Tuesday unveil a 45-man training squad for a one-day camp next Tuesday ahead of the autumn internationals, a significant staging point on the road to the 2023 World Cup in France.

The RFU however are already advancing preparations to ensure the England squad has an “over-supply of talent” in time for the 2027 World Cup and a major focus will be placed on developing the next generation of leaders.

The unveiling of the initiative comes after the RFU’s new chairman Tom Ilube last week voiced concerns about whether the English system was generating world-class players on a consistent basis.

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The new holistic development programme will include a focus on the “bio-psycho-social development” of players from junior grassroots level through to national age-group sides and then England A.

Conor O’Shea, the RFU’s director of performance, says leadership development will receive “special attention,” claiming today’s young players tend to make fewer decisions because of the control of their lives.

"(They are) spoon fed - we do everything for young people rather than letting them make decisions," said O’Shea. 

“Modern day life puts a big strain on producing a different sort of youth and we have to specifically look at how we develop leaders.

“Life is actually part of that as well in terms of how people are growing up, so I think it's a challenge for everybody and it's something that we're acutely aware of. Specific attention is being paid to it.”

England’s World Cup winning side in 2003 was stacked with strong-minded leaders, spearheaded by one of the greatest of all in Martin Johnson. Don Barrell, the RFU’s head of performance pathways and programmes, wants to ensure it is a trait identified with the next generation.

“We have to be a bit careful with leadership in terms of what we mean by it and that's something we spent time on unpacking it with those players,” said Barrell.

“A rugby game is a great example of real life leadership. There may be a captain who makes overall strategic decisions, but someone has to call the line-out and someone has to pick someone else up off the floor. They're all forms of leadership.

“They're things we're unpacking with the young players and our job is to create environments where they can get it right and at times get it wrong.”

O’Shea is also hopeful that Louis Lynagh, son of Wallaby legend Michael, will commit to England despite the fact that the Harlequins wing also qualifies for Australia and Italy.

“He has come through the pathway, he is with Quins and the coaches are in regular contact with Quins about all of their players,” O’Shea added.

“There are some players whose parents will have a role - whether it be a mother from Treviso or father from Australia, who is a bit of a legend, but he has come through the English system and it is great to see someone like him do well at Quins.”

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