Manu Tuilagi has been left out of Eddie Jones’ 34-man England squad that will take part in a two-day training camp ahead of the Six Nations, with Saracens’ injured forwards Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje both included alongside uncapped Bath prop Beno Obano and former Scotland Under-20s flanker Gary Graham.
Leicester Tigers centre Tuilagi has completed two 80-minute outings for his club this month since returning from his latest knee injury, but has been overlooked by Jones as he prepares his squad for the Six Nations.
The inclusion of Vunipola comes as something of a surprise given that he remains sidelined with a knee injury that will keep him out of Saturday’s encounter against Worcester Warriors, having been out of action since September and making just two appearances since the end of last season after missing the British and Irish Lions tour.
Itoje is, like Vunipola, due to return to action in January, but as he is recovering from a fractured jaw, the second-row-cum-flanker is able to participate in non-contact training and as such has been included by Jones for the training camp, which takes place in Brighton on 1 and 2 January, and will be the head coach’s first opportunity to assess his players for the Six Nations with a week-long trip to Portugal also planned later in January.
“This camp in Brighton is important for us to set the tone as a squad ahead of the Six Nations,” Jones said. “We will need to improve if we are to hunt down our opponents and beat them. This tournament will be exciting and challenging, as we know we will play against some very strong teams.
“Brighton will provide a great base to begin our preparations with players coming away with a clear plan for our opening match of the campaign against Italy.”
The two new call-ups sees 23-year-old Bath prop Obano and Newcastle’s 25-year-old back-row Graham – son of former Newcastle and Scotland prop George Graham – included, with the former named in…