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England v Ireland: Jack Willis left out as Sam Underhill returns


Willis will return to Wasps after being released by England in the wake of his first cap
Date: Saturday 21 November Kick-off: 15:00 GMT Venue: Twickenham
Coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and Radio Ulster and online with live text commentary

Flanker Jack Willis has been left out of England’s squad preparing for the Autumn Nations Cup match against Ireland, as Sam Underhill returns.

Fly-half George Ford is named despite an Achilles problem while flanker Lewis Ludlam, second row Jonny Hill and wing Ollie Thorley are also included.

Joe Marchant and Joe Marler are both unavailable because of injury.

Bath lock Charlie Ewels, who like Willis started the 40-0 defeat of Georgia, has also been sent back to his club but club-mate Jonathan Joseph, the versatile back who limped out of the match, is included.

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England training squad:

Backs: Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph, Ollie Lawrence, Max Malins, Jonny May, Dan Robson, Henry Slade, Ollie Thorley, Ben Youngs

Forwards: Tom Curry, Tom Dunn, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Lewis Ludlam, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola

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‘He can do things I can’t’

Jack Willis
Willis’ form helped Wasps make it to the Premiership final before his first England cap

Despite the Wasps flanker being left out of England’s upcoming game, Underhill says Willis’ arrival on the international scene will push England’s other back-row forwards to greater heights.

“The more we compete with each other, the better we make each other,” Bath open-side Underhill told BBC Sport.

“Jack getting his opportunity at the weekend was brilliant and all the boys were really happy for him.

“Ultimately he can do things that I can’t, and all the lads can do things I can’t. So we have all got strengths and weaknesses and we can all learn off each other.

“There is no sense of hierarchy – it is a very respectful, competitive and good-natured group.”

Wasps’ Willis took the Premiership by storm last season, poaching a staggering 46 turnovers throughout the campaign and scooping a host of individual awards.

However, Underhill, who has won 19 caps since making his debut in 2017, formed a formidable back-row combination with Sale’s Tom Curry at the World Cup, while other flankers such as Ben Earl and Lewis Ludlam have also impressed in their fledgling Test careers.

Lewis Ludlam, Sam Underhill, Ben Earl, Tom Curry
Lewis Ludlam, Sam Underhill, Ben Earl, Tom Curry (left to right) are some of Willis’ competition in the back row

“You have got to look at it from the point of view that if someone is coming in who is better, then they deserve to play,” Underhill added.

“But also that is only going to make me – or whoever it is – play better. Competition is only going to push us.

“Because if I then want to play I have got to be better than whoever else. And sometimes it is not a case of better or worse, sometimes it is a case of style and which way you want to play the game, and sometimes it is a case of balance – especially in the back row.

“But the better players you have and the more variety you have in ability, the stronger it makes the team, and that is ultimately what we all want. We all want England to be winning games.

“The group is bigger than any individual, and I don’t think that is just lip-service, I think that is something we genuinely believe.”

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