Dylan Hartley has been left out of England’s squad for their Six Nations opener against Ireland due to a knee injury.
Hooker Hartley, who has 97 caps, lost his starting slot to Jamie George during the November internationals when England were hard-hit by injuries and has not played for the last three weeks because of a knee injury.
Hartley is replaced in the squad by Luke Cowan-Dickie, and though he will not feature in the opening game in Ireland on Feb. 2, he could return later in the championship.
Joe Launchbury, Ellis Genge and Mako and Billy Vunipola return to the squad after missing the November Internationals.
There are four uncapped players in the squad — Ollie Thorley Ben Earl, Dan Robson and Jack Singleton — all given the chance to stake a claim for the World Cup in Japan later this year.
The squad of 35 will head to Portugal for a training camp next week ahead of their opening game in Dublin but Hartley, regularly lauded by Jones for his off-pitch influence, will not be among them.
“We’ve taken a completely different approach to the camp this time as we are especially focused on the Ireland game and so are taking only players we think will be available,” Jones said.
“Dylan won’t be available at the outside until maybe Wales [England’s third game on Feb. 23] and it’s the same with Chris Robshaw, who might make France [Feb. 10] .
England’s injury list was minimal this time, with only Hartley, Robshaw, Sam Underhill, Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph likely to have been pressing for inclusion.
“The great thing for this squad is that it’s the smallest unavailable list since 2016 so all these good players coming back creates good competition,” Jones said.
“We are very clear who are best players are but we want competition and in some places we have deliberately created competition.
“We need players who are at their absolute best, chomping at the bit and for that they need to be hungry.”
Owen Farrell captains England in Hartley’s absence, while scrum-half Danny Care was not included.
Full England Squad
Forwards (20): Jack Clifford, Dan Cole. Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Nathan Hughes, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Ben Moon, Brad Shields, Kyle Sinckler, Jack Singleton, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Harry Williams, Mark Wilson
Backs (15): Chris Ashton, Mike Brown, Joe Cokanasiga, Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto, Owen Farrell (c), George Ford, Jonny May, Jack Nowell, Dan Robson, Henry Slade, Ben Te’o, Ollie Thorley, Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs
Information from Reuters was used in this report.