England head coach Eddie Jones has named a 36-man squad for the three-Test tour of Australia (2023 World Cup – England 9/2, Australia 12/1) next month, with experienced figures Billy Vunipola and Danny Care back in the fold.
Saracens number eight Vunipola has not played for England since the 2021 Six Nations, but with Alex Dombrandt suffering a knee injury in the build-up to Sunday’s 52-21 loss to the Barbarians, the door has been reopened.
Care is also back in contention as he made his first England appearance for four years in the non-cap contest at Twickenham.
The 35-year-old Harlequins scrum-half won the last of his 84 caps back in 2018 and will compete with Harry Randall and Alex Mitchell for the number nine jersey.
There are also eight uncapped players in the squad, as Jones has to contend with a number of injury worries.
Exeter Chiefs’ Patrick Schickerling, London Irish duo Henry Arundell and Will Joseph, Northampton Saints pair Fraser Dingwall and Tommy Freeman, Jack Walker of Harlequins and Leicester Tigers’ Guy Porter and Jack van Poortvilet are all hoping to play for the Red Rose for the first time.
Among the absentees are fly-half George Ford who is currently suffering with an ankle problem, while squad regulars Henry Slade, Sam Simmonds, Kyle Sinckler, and Anthony Watson all miss out with fitness issues of their own.
Jones thinks the squad however is capable of turning up against the Wallabies, with the first Test set to take place in Perth on Saturday 2nd July.
“Though we have ten players unavailable due to injury, we have picked a very strong squad capable of winning the series,” said the 62-year-old Australian.
“This squad is a real mix of young, talented players and some very experienced, senior players and we’re looking forward to bring the group together.
“This tour will be a great experience for the group and a crucial part of the team’s work towards the Rugby World Cup in 2023. We will continue to develop the base of the squad and how we want to play.”
The second match takes place in Brisbane on 9th July, with the series concluding in Sydney a week later.