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Manu Tuilagi left out of England training squad for Six Nations

The Guardian logo The Guardian 29/12/2017 Gerard Meagher
Manu Tuilagi.: Manu Tuilagi has been left out of England’s Six Nations training squad for a two-day camp in Brighton next week. © BPI/Rex/Shutterstock Manu Tuilagi has been left out of England’s Six Nations training squad for a two-day camp in Brighton next week.

Manu Tuilagi has been left out of England’s training squad for a two-day camp in Brighton next week following his latest comeback from injury, but Eddie Jones has recalled Billy Vunipola and James Haskell. There are also surprise first call‑ups for Newcastle’s openside flanker Gary Graham and the Bath prop Beno Obano.

Vunipola is nearing a return to fitness after the knee injury that forced him to miss the autumn internationals while Haskell is recalled after he was omitted throughout the November series.

The inclusion of the 25-year-old Graham is also a surprise considering he has represented Scotland at Under-20 level, but Jones is without the injured back-row trio of Sam Underhill, Nathan Hughes and Tom Curry. Obano, who is joined in the 34-man squad by his cousin Maro Itoje – another Saracens forward nearing a return to fitness following a broken jaw – is rewarded for his fine form for Bath.

Tuilagi’s absence is not surprising considering he has looked rusty in his two appearances for Leicester this month following another long lay-off with a knee injury. Before injuring his knee he was included in a similar England camp in August, only to be sent home following a late-night drinking session with Denny Solomona. Jones remains eager to select Tuilagi, however, provided he can show his best form and so his omission is an indication he has work to do to force his way into England’s Six Nations plans.

The Saracens pair Alex Lozowski and George Kruis are among the most notable omissions although the latter lost his place in the England matchday squad in the autumn. Lozowski started the final match against Samoa but will remain with his club next week. Courtney Lawes will also miss the camp for personal reasons.

Kyle Sinckler, whose suspension ruled him out of two of England’s three autumn fixtures, is recalled by Jones as is the fit-again Jack Nowell. Ben Te’o is also part of the squad having been out with an ankle injury since October. He was deemed unlikely to be fit for the start of the Six Nations by his club, Worcester, last week.

Harlequins’ teenage fly-half Marcus Smith and the Bath back row Zach Mercer are again named as apprentice players while the hooker Tom Dunn and the Saracens winger Nathan Earle complete the sextet of uncapped players. Elliot Daly and Semesa Rokoduguni miss out through injury.

Jones, who has targeted a record-breaking third consecutive Six Nations title, said: “This camp in Brighton is important for us to set the tone as a squad ahead of the Six Nations. 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.”

The 34-man squad will convene in Brighton on Monday. Jones is due to name his squad for the Six Nations on 18 January before a week’s training camp in Portugal three days later.

Related: Match highlights: Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs (Perform)

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