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England recall flanker Wood for autumn Tests

Tom Wood

Wood started the first three of England’s games at the 2015 World Cup

Northampton flanker Tom Wood has been recalled to the England squad for the autumn internationals.

Coach Eddie Jones had left out Wood, 29, since taking charge after the 2015 World Cup, but picks him for the first time amid a back-row injury crisis.

Wood, who has 42 caps, is part of a 33-man squad named for the four Tests.

The uncapped trio of Sale full-back Mike Haley, Saracens fly-half Alex Lozowski and Bath lock Charlie Ewels are also included.

Australian Jones said he had been in touch with Wood after leaving him out back in January and had been impressed by his “work-rate”.

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Jones joked that Wood had got stronger “like Samson” after growing his hair and beard

England will play South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia on successive weekends, starting with the Springboks on 12 November.

Regular starters George Kruis, Maro Itoje, James Haskell, Jack Nowell and Anthony Watson have all been ruled out, as have back-row forwards Jack Clifford, Sam Jones and Mike Williams.

Other uncapped players included are Harlequins prop Kyle Sinckler, Wasps forward Nathan Hughes and Worcester centre Ben Te’o.

There are also returns for the Gloucester pair Ben Morgan and Jonny May, along with Bath second row Dave Attwood.

The open-side flanker position has been problematic since Haskell, who filled the role for the duration of the Six Nations and in two of the three Tests in the summer whitewash of Australia, was ruled out with a broken toe.

Northampton’s Teimana Harrison was promoted to the seven shirt for England’s whitewash-sealing win in Sydney, but only lasted 31 minutes before being hauled off by Jones.

With the possibility of deploying the versatile Itoje there now ended by injury, Jones could switch Chris Robshaw across from blind-side to fill the vacancy.

Robshaw played as open-side under Jones’ predecessor Stuart Lancaster, but, before getting his current role, Jones questioned the Harlequins captain’s ability to play the role, calling him a “six and a half at best”.

“It is always an option,” said Jones as he made light of his previous comments. “He always has that six and a half jersey tucked away and half a point doesn’t matter too much.”

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James Haskell made bespoke six and a half shirts for himself and Robshaw when England won the 2016 Grand Slam

The squad will fly to Portugal on Sunday for a training camp ahead of meeting South Africa at Twickenham.

Jones oversaw a three-day training camp in Brighton earlier this month that was criticised by the country’s top clubs after Nowell, Watson and Sam Jones were injured during it.

But the former Japan and Australia coach said he had no intention of toning down his squad’s sessions.

“There is nothing to change. We want to train with intensity. We have not beaten South Africa since 2006 and we need to be at our best,” he added.

Analysis

BBC Radio 5 live rugby union reporter Chris Jones:

Eddie Jones’ plans in the back row have been thrown somewhat into disarray because of the number of injuries, so he has turned to the experienced Wood, a man who was a central part of Stuart Lancaster’s regime.

Wood was jettisoned following the Rugby World Cup, and admitted Jones felt his performances were – quote – “distinctly average”, but the Northampton man is experienced and durable, and his line-out expertise could be invaluable in the absence of George Kruis.

Another experienced operator Dave Attwood has been recalled to give England options in the second row, while the exciting Sale back Mike Haley is one of six uncapped players.

England squad:

Forwards: Dave Attwood (Bath), Dan Cole (Leicester), Charlie Ewels (Bath), Ellis Genge (Leicester), Jamie George (Saracens), Teimana Harrison (Northampton), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Nathan Hughes (Wasps), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Ben Morgan (Gloucester), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Tommy Taylor (Wasps), Billy Vunipola (Saracens) Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)

Backs: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Danny Care (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath Rugby), Alex Goode (Saracens), Mike Haley (Sale), Jonathan Joseph (Bath), Alex Lozowski (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester), Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Ben Te’o (Worcester), Marland Yarde (Harlequins), Ben Youngs (Leicester)

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/37771915