England’s preparations for the Six Nations have been further disrupted with Sam Underhill ruled out of the championship.
The Bath back-row has a hip injury and has withdrawn from the squad. Eddie Jones has opted to call up Wasps’ Jack Willis as Underhill’s replacement.
The news follows Monday’s withdrawals of Joe Launchbury and Joe Marler. Launchbury sustained a fractured fibula, while Marler withdrew due to family reasons. Jones called up Charlie Ewels and Tom West respectively for those two players.
Underhill’s withdrawal will come as a blow for England. He has been part of their first choice back-row and shone in the 2019 World Cup. He played in their Autumn Nations Cup finale against France and would have been a key part of Jones’ plans for this Six Nations.
England are operating with a smaller 28-man squad for this Six Nations due to COVID-19 protocols.
Jones has named a 12-man “shadow squad” to act as cover, and they will undergo the same COVID-19 protocols as the main group.
With Willis added to the championship squad, Jones has added three further players to the back up list: Exeter’s Alec Hepburn and Northampton duo Lewis Ludlam and David Ribbans.
England are training at St George’s Park this week before returning to the Lensbury to continue their preparations for the Six Nations.
Their championship starts on Feb. 6 at Twickenham against Scotland.