England v Tonga: Marcus Smith and Freddie Steward face race against time to shake off injuries ahead of tomorrow’s team selection
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Sam Simmonds’ three and a half year wait for an England recall continues after he was sent packing last night by Eddie Jones.
The Exeter star had hoped Lions selection, obliterating the Premiership’s try record and being named player of the season might count for something with the Red Rose boss.
But on a day when Jones’ most pressing concern appeared to be a leg injury to fly-half Marcus Smith, Simmonds was cut loose without public explanation.
Jones will instead choose between Alex Dombrandt and Tom Curry to play No.8 against Tonga in Saturday’s autumn curtain raiser at Twickenham.
Incredulous Exeter fans piled onto social media to ask what more their man has to do to resume an England career which stalled in March 2018.
“Wrestle a lion, swim with a great white shark, slay a frickin’ dragon?” said one.
Simmonds was European player of the year in 2020 after powering Chiefs to the Premiership-Champions Cup double.
He followed up with 20 league tries last season to earn Lions recognition – yet nothing from England, despite the nation’s worst ever Six Nations campaign.
During one game earlier this year World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio implored Jones to select Simmonds during a TV commentary.
“C’mon, people have got to see this,” Dallaglio said. “A No.8 with pace off the base of the scrum, getting over the gain line. Pick him.”
While Simmonds has returned to Devon, Smith is in a race against time to take his eagerly awaited shot at controlling a full-strength England team.
The Harlequins fly-half is earmarked for the fly-half slot with captain Owen Farrell in the No.12 shirt alongside him.
But Jones revealed that the 22-year old has a leg injury which has sidelined him from all but “a bit of ball handling” this week.
“Marcus has a minor leg injury,” said the Australian. “He hasn’t done much this week, we’re being conservative with him but we’re cautiously optimistic he’ll be right to play.
“We’re not desperate, we’re never desperate. But we are keen for him to be involved in the game. If we don’t get to see him this week we will get to see him next week.”
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Farrell will move to 10 is Smith does not make it. Max Malins, Raffi Quirke and Louis Lynagh are definitely out due to injury.
Forwards: Jamie Blamire, Tom Curry, Trevor Davison, Alex Dombrandt, Charlie Ewels, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill.
Backs: Mark Atkinson, Owen Farrell, George Furbank, Max Malins, Joe Marchant, Jonny May, Alex Mitchell, Raffi Quirke, Adam Radwan, Henry Slade, Marcus Smith, Freddie Steward, Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs