England coach Eddie Jones included uncapped fly-half Jacob Umaga in his title-chasing squad announced yesterday for this weekend’s Six Nations finale against Italy and the upcoming Autumn Nations Cup.
Umaga, the nephew of former New Zealand captain Tana Umaga, was chosen after steering Wasps to last weekend’s Premiership final, where they were beaten by Exeter.
He was only one of two stand-offs selected by Jones, together with captain Owen Farrell in the absence of the injured George Ford. But there was no place for Exeter captain and outside-half Joe Simmonds, also yet to win his first Test cap.
Wasps back-row Jack Willis, still to make his international debut, was also included in a 36-man squad after winning several individual honours in an impressive 2019/20 season.
Meanwhile Henry Slade, a centre who covers at fly-half, was included fresh from starring in Exeter’s 19-13 win over Wasps in the Premiership final at Twickenham last Saturday.
Both Slade and Umaga scored well-taken tries during a rain-drenched clash where Simmonds’ goalkicking proved decisive.
In addition to Williams, Umaga and Slade, four other players who featured in the final - Exeter forwards Jonny Hill and Harry Williams and Wasps lock Joe Launchbury and scrum-half Dan Robson have been included as well.
England could be crowned Six Nations champions if they beat Italy and if the result of a match between title rivals France and Ireland on Saturday falls in their favour. But in addition to Ford, their injury list includes full-back Elliot Daly and prop Joe Marler.
Jones is due to name his matchday 23 for the coronavirus-delayed clash on Thursday, having seen his preparations disrupted by the when England’s warm-up fixture against the Barbarians on Sunday was cancelled several f he invitational side’s players, including former England captain Chris Robshaw, broke Covid-19 health protocols.
“We have to put our best foot forward if we want to win the Six Nations,” veteran Australian coach Jones said in a Rugby Football Union statement.
“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.”
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