England vs France: ‘No wriggle room’ to add Sam Underhill to squad


hile France have recalled the fit-again Romain Ntamack and Virimi Vakatawa to their squad to face England, Eddie Jones says there is “no wriggle room” to add Sam Underhill to his Six Nations squad after he came through his return from injury with Bath.

Underhill withdrew from England’s squad before the Six Nations began with a hip injury, which he has now overcome.

Underhill got through 50 minutes of Bath’s Premiership defeat to Exeter on Saturday, raising hopes that he could play a part in the final two games of what has been a tricky campaign for Jones’s team, featuring defeats to Scotland and Wales.

France are next up at Twickenham on Saturday, having come through a bout of Covid-19 in the camp and welcomed back star backs Ntamack and Vakatawa from jaw and knee injuries respectively.

Underhill was replaced in England’s squad by Jack Willis, who has since suffered a serious injury of his own. Another back-row option, Courtney Lawes, has also joined the injury list, with those two replaced by the uncapped George Martin and David Ribbans.

Jones says he is now not able to pick Underhill due to regulations drawn up for the tournament in Covid times, designed to limit the amount of movement in and out of England’s training base in Teddington.

“We have a squad of 28 and we’re limited to a squad of 28,” said Jones. “He wasn’t available when we named the previous squad. He did some good things yesterday, I watched the game. If we get the opportunity to look at him again. We’re limited by a squad of 28.

“Zero [room for manoeuvre]. That’s the regulation. If I was an administrator I could tell you why, but that’s the agreement between the RFU and the clubs. As we always said, we are happy with it.

“It’s a good situation for us to be able to have 28 players throughout the campaign and we have no choice but to agree with it and are following it to the regulations mate. There’s no wriggle room.”

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