England Rugby World Cup training squad announcement: Will Greenwood's views
Last Updated: 20/06/19 1:51pm
Sky Sports rugby union expert Will Greenwood gives his views on the omissions and call-ups for England's initial World Cup squad, plus who should captain the team in Japan.
'Door not closed' on Hartley
The most eye-catching news from Thursday's announcement of England's 29-man training squad was not who Eddie Jones had included, but who he had left out.
Dylan Hartley and Chris Robshaw, both of whom have captained the national team, plus Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care were not included in those called up for the five-day camp.
Northampton Saints hooker Hartley has not played since December due to a knee injury and Quins flanker Robshaw missed large parts of the 2018/19 season and the Six Nations through injury too.
Meanwhile, Care has not featured since starting against Japan last autumn, when England trailed 15-10 at half time before going on to win 35-15.
However, while Greenwood believes not including the experienced trio - who have 247 caps between them - might seem like a gamble at this stage, they still have a chance to be in Jones' 45-man training squad when it is named on July 4.
"The door is not completely closed on Dylan Hartley, but he's not played rugby in a long, long time, and he needs to be fit and running around, and getting involved in these camps sooner rather than later," Greenwood told Sky Sports.
"Robshaw, again he's been injured for long periods of last season. He came back at the back end of last season and played some outstanding rugby.
"Danny Care, his big moment, really, was the Japan game. Two or three players came out of that performance where they were behind to Japan at half time - ended winning fairly convincingly - with blotted copybooks and we haven't seen Danny Care playing again since.
"There might be an element of a gamble in removing that levels of caps at this stage, but I would hasten to add this is not Eddie Jones' final squad."
Opportunity for youngsters to impress
Those players who were involved in the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals and final have not been included in this initial training squad as they still on their mandatory five-week break following the end of the 2018/29 season.
Jones has, however, been able to call on the services of a number of exciting young English players and will be able to run the rule over them close up during the upcoming training camp.
Georgia-born Gloucester prop Val Rapava Ruskin, Quins number eight Alex Dombrandt - who impressed for the England XV in the 51-43 win over the Barbarians earlier this month - Northampton back row Lewis Ludlam and flying Bath winger Ruaridh McConnochie are all included.
"It's good to see these guys get their opportunity," Greenwood said.
"Some of these might just be giving players a little bit more time and rest, but we'll find out over the next 14 or 15 days.
"It is exciting to be seeing Ruskins, Dombrandts and Ludlams in there because there is always a flyer who comes from nowhere and storms into the World Cup squad and has an outstanding tournament."
Farrell the man to lead England?
With Hartley and Robshaw both out of contention at present, it looks likely it will be Owen Farrell who is handed the role of captain for this year's World Cup in Japan.
The Saracens fly-half skippered the side during the Six Nations after being appointed co-captain with Hartley for the 2018 autumn internationals and has enjoyed an outstanding season for his club, helping them retain their Premiership crown and lift the European Champions Cup.
World Cup winner Greenwood is in no doubt the 27-year old is the right man to lead England in Japan.
"I do think he's an outstanding rugby player," Greenwood said. "He gets some grief on social media platforms and people are quick to pick out when he makes an error.
"But under pressure, in the big games at a World Cup, having Owen Farrell at 10 with the captain's armband on is a pretty good decision to make.
"He's an outstanding athlete, an outstanding young man and I think if you asked a number of old pros 'would you follow Farrell?' they'd say 'absolutely, I'd love to be on a park with him."
How are England stacking up against their rivals?
Defending champions New Zealand are favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan and make it three triumphs in a row with the bookies.
Wales are tipped to do well too on the back of completing the Grand Slam when triumphing in this year's Six Nations.
Greenwood believes both are among the leading contenders, but he is in no doubt England have a strong chance of at least making the semi-finals.
"Wales have got a really good chance of making the final; New Zealand, you look at what they've done in 2011 and 2015, they'll be there or thereabouts and then it's who else can make the semi-finals?" Greenwood said.
"Where are England right now? Genuinely, I wouldn't want to play against them come the autumn, but you'd say at the moment some teams wouldn't feel too petrified of coming up against them.
"I think they're an outstanding team and are going to have a big World Cup."