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ENGLAND head coach Eddie Jones refused to discuss the reasons behind the omission of Ben Te’o from the 31-man squad named for the World Cup.
The 32-year-old centre has been overlooked in favour of Northampton’s Piers Francis two weeks after being involved in a scuffle with teammate Mike Brown at a social event at an England training camp in Treviso.
Jones would not disclose the reasons behind any of the players left out of his squad, insisting that they all need to be prepared to answer the call if injuries occur.
“I’m not going to go into reasons why he [Te’o] was not selected,” Jones said at a press conference.
“We have had that conversation with Ben, he understands it. Whether he agrees with us or not is another matter. He’s not in our top 31 players at the moment.
“Obviously [there are] a number of very disappointed players. We feel for them. They’ve worked hard and they are excellent players.
“The message we have for them is that they have still got to be ready because the circumstances of the World Cup dictate that you have injuries. They could have opportunities down the track.”
Former sevens specialist Ruaridh McConnochie continues a remarkable year as the only uncapped player included, on the strength of a strong end to the season for Bath.
Flanker Lewis Ludlam, hooker Jack Singleton and scrum-half Willi Heinz made their debuts in Sunday’s rout of Wales and are also picked.
“Firstly I think it’s always nice to bring new blood in, it always freshens things up,” Jones said. “When you have that enthusiasm as young players it adds to the squad.
“Ruaridh we’ve been watching quite closely through the club season. I was impressed by him. He’s a very good worker, a very good communicator, mature boy, can play a number of positions. He was a pretty easy selection in the end.
“Lewis came from nowhere. We watched him in club rugby, he’d done particularly well and we thought we’d roll the dice and bring him in to camp to see what he could offer. Every week he got a little bit better.”
Jones has also confirmed, as expected, that Owen Farrell will captain England in Japan. They begin their campaign with a clash against Tonga on September 22.
Farrell has been co-captain alongside Dylan Hartley for most of the last year but Northampton hooker Hartley is unavailable due to an ongoing knee problem.
“[It was a] very straightforward decision [on Farrell],” Jones said. “Dylan [Hartley] is not available for selection.”
While the captaincy may have been an easy call for the Australian, Jones admits England are taking a risk by only naming two options in the specialist scrum-half position.
Ben Youngs and Heinz are those two picks, with Jones singling out fly-half George Ford as someone who could fill in if needed.
“We would like to take three of every specialist position, but that would leave us short in other positions,” he explained.
“There is risk involved in it. We decided to go with two there and two at tight-head prop. We’ve got contingency with George Ford who has played a little bit of half-back and he will continue to do some training.
“If things become so we need a third half-back, we believe he can fulfil the role for a period of time.”
Elsewhere, despite being weeks away from naming his squad, Wales boss Warren Gatland will be without fly-half Gareth Anscombe.
The Ospreys No 10, an integral part of Wales’s Six Nations title and Grand Slam-winning campaign last season, suffered a knee injury during Sunday’s World Cup warm-up defeat against England at Twickenham.
He follows Bath No 8 Taulupe Faletau, who suffered a broken collarbone during Wales training, in missing the competition.
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