England boss Andy Robinson has named a revised 27-man squad to prepare for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations opener against Wales at Twickenham.
The British & Irish Lions coach has cut nine players from his original party, including four who are sidelined by injury – Pat Sanderson (back), Olly Barkley (dislocated thumb), Mark Van Gisbergen (sprained foot) and George Chuter (knee sprain).
The other five players omitted are Leicester wing Tom Varndell, his Tigers team-mate, lock Louis Deacon, Wasps centre Stuart Abbott, Perpignan prop Perry Freshwater and Sale Sharks flanker Magnus Lund, who all feature in a 27-player England A squad to face their Italian counterparts near Rome on Friday night.
Varndell and Deacon were both involved during the 40-3 victory over Samoa in November while Abbott’s form suggested he might have challenged for a midfield place against Wales, but Robinson’s preferred centre pairing looks like being Mike Tindall and Jamie Noon.
Uncapped Lund, meanwhile, is likely to start for the A team, a game that Robinson has attached great importance to.
With captain Martin Corry nailing down one of England’s back-row spots for the Wales clash, the major interest centres on whether or not World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio will earn a recall 17 months after he retired from international rugby.
Wasps flanker Joe Worsley and Leicester’s Lewis Moody are favourites to pack down alongside Corry but Dallaglio remains on course at least for a place in England’s match-day 22.
England squad for RBS 6 Nations game against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday, February 4.
Backs: J Lewsey (Wasps), M Cueto (Sale Sharks), B Cohen (Northampton), T Voyce (Wasps), J Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester), M Tindall (Gloucester), J Noon (Newcastle), C Hodgson (Sale Sharks), A Goode (Leicester), M Dawson (Wasps), H Ellis (Leicester), P Richards (Gloucester).
Forwards: A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), M Stevens (Bath), J White (Leicester), S Thompson (Northampton), L Mears (Bath), S Borthwick (Bath), A Brown (Gloucester), S Shaw (Wasps), D Grewcock (Bath), C Jones (Sale Sharks), J Worsley (Wasps), L Moody (Leicester), J Forrester (Gloucester), L Dallaglio (Wasps), M Corry (Leicester, capt).