England have announced that Maro Itoje will not feature on the final weekend of the Six Nations championship. It means that his only appearance this year will have been against Ireland on the opening weekend, when he picked up his knee injury. It is not ideal for Itoje during World Cup year having established himself as first choice in the English engine room. Fortunately for England they have at least three other locks who would make most international sides in the shape of George Kruis, Courtney Lawes (also currently injured) and Joe Launchbury.
The other main talking point from the extended squad announcement is the inclusion of Harlequins youngster Marcus Smith as fly half cover. This has raised further doubt to the prospects of Danny Cipriani making the World Cup squad, this is despite Cipriani producing great performances for Gloucester this season. Defence coach John Mitchell has stated that Cipriani has been made aware of the areas of his game that need improving for him to be considered. It does seem that Eddie Jones just does not fancy the maverick qualities of Cipriani. The inclusion of Smith might also suggest that Jones will return to the axis of George Ford and Owen Farrell at ten and twelve for the visit of Scotland as he normally doesn’t include three out halves in his extended squads.
Harlequins and England veterans Mike Brown and Chris Robshaw have missed the cut. This may be more damning in the long run for Brown as Robshaw has just returned from injury and Brown seems to have slipped well down the pecking order for now.
Not many changes are expected to the starting fifteen against Scotland apart from possibly Ford replacing Ben Te’o as Jones may believe more subtlety is needed to unlock a Scottish defence which will not provide the space to England which the Italians did.
Written by Stefan Hamilton