Jack Willis overlooked by England as they prepare to take on Ireland

By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent
·3-min read

Jack Willis has been overlooked by England for Saturday’s clash with Ireland despite impressing on his debut in the Autumn Nations Cup opener against Georgia.

Willis celebrated his first cap with a try and turnover as part of an influential performance that lasted until he was replaced in the third quarter, but it has not been enough to keep the Wasps flanker in camp.

Instead, Eddie Jones has turned to Sam Underhill and Lewis Ludlam in his 25-man squad that will step up preparations for Ireland before the starting XV is announced on Thursday morning.

Underhill was rested against Georgia but he is on course to return at openside at Willis’ expense, while Ludlam is a surprise pick having not previously been involved in the autumn including the Six Nations-clinching victory over Italy.

Exeter lock Jonny Hill is back having excelled on his debut in Rome, Charlie Ewels making way to accommodate him. Knee-injury victim Joe Marler remains out.

George Ford is back in contention after a spell battling an Achilles injury and if fit he could regain the fly-half duties from Owen Farrell, who would move to inside centre, in what would be his first appearance of the autumn.

Centre Joe Marchant is reconditioning after sustaining an unspecified injury, so wing Ollie Thorley is present after being dropped against Georgia.

Jonathan Joseph has won his battle with the back injury suffered against Georgia in time for the first true challenge of England’s Autumn Nations Cup.

Sam Underhill was rested against Georgia
Sam Underhill was rested against Georgia (AndyRain/PA)

Joseph suffered a spasm while in the process of setting up a try for Elliot Daly in the first half of a 40-0 rout and was in obvious pain as he was helped from the pitch.

The 29-year-old has responded well to treatment, however, and is ready for the visit of Andy Farrell’s Ireland.

Attack coach Simon Amor echoes the view of head coach Jones that England should have emerged more emphatic winners against Georgia.

Los Lelos were taken on at their traditional strength in the forwards and taken apart, but the attack spluttered with Daly’s finish of Joseph’s break the highlight of an efficient if workmanlike team performance.

“We left quite a few points out there. We made some small progress, took steps in the direct direction,” Amor said.

“There were quite a few handling errors so there are definitely areas to improve upon. And we’re building those connections between players.

“We’re excited about where we’re going and we’re keen to take a big step forward this weekend, particularly in execution.”

Joseph’s switch from outside centre to right-wing was a success as he took advantage of being given the freedom to roam across the backline, but if passed fit and selected he will find the Ireland defence less accommodating than Georgia’s.

“Jonathan’s had one previous opportunity to play on the wing for us. We think he can have a bit more space and that fluidity moving between the positions,” Amor said.

“The opportunity to roam, the way the game is going, really plays to his strength. He has such a wonderful feel for the game.

“We know he’s elusive, he reads the game very, very well in defence and he has a wonderful feel in attack, so he provides a really good attacking option for us.”