LONDON (Reuters) -Coach Eddie Jones has brought Billy Vunipola and Danny Care back from international exile after including them on Monday in a 36-man squad for England’s July tour of Australia.
Vunipola, who was excellent for Saracens in Saturday’s Premiership final defeat by Leicester, suffered a head injury late in the game but was passed fit to tour having last played in the 2021 Six Nations.
Scrumhalf Care’s last cap came against Japan in 2018, though the 35-year-old, who has had a superb season for Harlequins, did come off the bench in England’s non-cap 52-21 defeat by the Barbarians on Sunday.
On the recall of Vunipola, Jones told a news conference: “He wasn’t at his best the last Six Nations he played with us, he was a bit up and down. I asked him to go away and find his best, I think consistently for Saracens he has been close to that. I thought in the (Premiership) final he was exceptional, he looked like a test Number Eight.
“We were in regular contact, I would go and see him before each selection and have a chat about where he was at. I value him highly as a player but he wasn’t at his best, and he has found his best now and deserves to be back in the team.”
Care was shown the door after a tactical difference of opinion with Jones in the Japan game four years ago but is another who made an irresistible case for a recall, particularly with regular scrumhalf Ben Youngs rested.
“He’s very good at playing on top of teams, it’s about the speed of the ball,” Jones said, also with an eye on the hard, fast pitches expected in Australia. “We’ve experimented playing a bit flatter and he is very good at taking the ball to the defence line. When the ball is quick he can engage those ruck defenders which creates space on the outside.”
There are eight uncapped players in the squad – Fraser Dingwall, Tommy Freeman, Guy Porter, Patrick Schickerling, Jack van Poortvliet and Jack Walker, along with Henry Arundell and Will Joseph who were named as “apprentice players”.
Jones said he would delay naming his captain – likely to be either Owen Farrell or Courtney Lawes, until the team is chosen for the first test.
Alex Dombrandt, Joe Cokanasiga, George Ford, Sam Simmonds, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Kyle Sinckler, Anthony Watson, Louis Lynagh and George Furbank were unavailable through injury. Prop Joe Marler and Premiership player of the year Ben Earl were among the bigger names not selected.
Jones said Sunday’s Barbarians defeat would have little impact on the tour preparations, or the longer view to the World Cup and that several young players involved would have learned a great deal from playing against unfamiliar opposition.
“Yesterday was an England XV side, not a test match,” he said. “It was an important practice match that we got a lot out of.”
The first test is in Perth on July 2 followed by Brisbane and Sydney in the following two weeks. England have won their last eight games against Australia, all under Jones, starting with a clean sweep of their three-test tour in 2016.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Christian Radnedge)
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