EDDIE JONES insisted yesterday that James Haskell still has an England future despite omitting the veteran Wasps flanker from his training squad for the autumn opener against Argentina.
When fit, Haskell has been a favourite for Jones since the Australian took over in 2015, but the 75-cap back row, who toured New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions during the summer, has paid the price for a sluggish start to the season.
A thumb injury has proved troublesome and now he has seen Exeter’s Sam Simmonds elevated above him in the pecking order.
Simmonds makes his first appearance in a senior England squad alongside more established prospects Sam Underhill and Tom Curry — but Jones insists it is not the end for a 32-year-old whose international career spans a decade.
“He’s just not playing well enough at the moment, but the door is never shut on him,” Jones said.
There were few surprises among the 34-man squad that will train in Portugal next week ahead of Argentina’s visit to Twickenham on November 11.
Marland Yarde has lost out to Denny Solomona even though the rugby league convert was sent home in disgrace from England’s training camp in August for a late-night drinking session with the now-injured Manu Tuilagi.
Jones has picked two names described as “apprentice players” in Bath, back row Zach Mercer and Quins fly-half Marcus Smith, although he insists their roles will be peripheral.
Jones had stated he might rest those involved in the Lions tour during the summer but if available and deemed worthy of selection, all are present among the 34 including Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly.