England have named uncapped Wasps duo Jack Willis and Jacob Umaga in their squad for the Six Nations finale against Italy and Autumn Nations Cup.
Willis was expected to be picked in the 36-man party following a blockbusting season in which he emerged as the Gallagher Premiership’s foremost breakdown specialist, but Umaga’s inclusion is a surprise.
The 22-year-old is chosen ahead of Exeter’s Joe Simmonds and could win his first cap in Rome on Saturday due to being only one of two fly-halves present alongside Owen Farrell.
The squad 🌹
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Henry Slade is also included fresh from his heroics in helping the Chiefs defeat Wasps 19-13 in the Premiership final on Saturday and has experience at 10.
England have been bolstered by the availability of seven players who took part in a captivating climax to the domestic season at Twickenham, including Willis, Umaga and Slade.
Completing the list are Exeter tight five forwards Jonny Hill and Harry Williams and Wasps lock Joe Launchbury and scrum-half Dan Robson.
Also present for the first time since the World Cup is Bath wing Joe Cokanasiga, whose season has been hindered by a serious knee injury.
England have reported a number of fresh injuries in hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, wing Ali Crossdale and flanker Mark Wilson.
It also appears that full-back Elliot Daly, fly-half George Ford and prop Joe Marler will miss the showdown with Italy when England will be playing for the title. All three are listed as reconditioning.
Ford’s absence has created an opportunity for Umaga with Eddie Jones naming his team to face Italy on Thursday morning.
England’s preparations for their attempt to claim a third Six Nations title under Jones have been disrupted by the cancellation of Sunday’s fixture against the Barbarians after a number of the invitational club’s players broke coronavirus protocols.
“We have to put our best foot forward if we want to win the Six Nations,” Jones said.
“We need to set the tone of the game and we want to put a smile on fans’ faces, a lot of people are enduring hardships and we are grateful for the opportunity to represent England in these difficult times.
“We were obviously disappointed with the postponement of the Barbarians game but we moved to plan B, had a highly competitive training session instead of the match and now we are fully focused on the Italy game and the goal of winning the Six Nations.”