Ireland v England: Dylan Hartley not in squad for Six Nations opener

Dylan Hartley
Hartley scored tries against New Zealand and Japan in the autumn, only his third and fourth scores in 97 England caps
Six Nations 2019: Ireland v England
Venue: Aviva Stadium Date: Saturday 2 February Kick-off: 16:45 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live, highlights on BBC

Co-captain Dylan Hartley is absent from England's initial Six Nations squad because of a knee injury.

The Northampton hooker, who has not played in nearly four weeks, will miss England's opener against Ireland and the match against France a week later.

He could return for to the trip to Cardiff to face Wales on 23 February.

Four uncapped players make Eddie Jones' 35-man squad - forwards Ben Earl and Jack Singleton and backs Dan Robson and Ollie Thorley.

Prop Dan Cole has been recalled, but scrum-half Danny Care is left out.

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I'm tired of being injured - Billy Vunipola

Flanker Chris Robshaw and centre Jonathan Joseph have not been considered because of injury, but there are returns for Mako and Billy Vunipola and lock Joe Launchbury.

Hartley, meanwhile, has been struggling with a knee problem for much of the past month, with Jones confirming he will not be fit for the trip to Dublin.

Fly-half Owen Farrell will take on sole captaincy duties.

"Dylan won't be available for the Ireland game so we won't take him to Portugal [for a pre-tournament training camp] but we are hopeful he will be back later in the Championship," Jones said.

"Owen will be captain by himself and he will certainly have great support from a number of senior players."

British and Irish Lions Sean O'Brien, Iain Henderson and Robbie Henshaw were among those included in the Ireland squad announced on Wednesday.

Jones shuffles at nine

Dan Robson and Danny Care
Robson (left) is the latest to fill in behind scrum-half starter Ben Youngs after Danny Care (right) was left out

England's most-capped scrum-half Care was dropped for England's final autumn Test against Australia in November and finds himself supplanted by Robson, 26, in Jones' initial selection for the Six Nations.

An ankle injury kept Robson out of contention during the autumn, but he seems set to win his first cap off the bench in Dublin.

Thorley, who was part of the squad that won the World under-20 Championship for England in 2016, has scored five tries in nine matches for Gloucester this season.

The 22-year-old was named Premiership player of the month for November after scoring a spectacular long-range effort in the 36-13 win over Leicester at Kingsholm.

Worcester hooker Singleton, 22, who was also part of the 2016 Under-20 team, appeared for England in the non-Test defeat by the Barbarians in May, while Saracens back row Earl, 21, was part of the touring squad to South Africa in the summer, without getting on the field.

Analysis

BBC rugby union correspondent Chris Jones

Eddie Jones will feel quite thankful for the relative lack of injuries. Hartley, Joseph and Robshaw will all miss the start of the Six Nations, but on the whole it is a far healthier picture for England than it was before the November series - any squad with Mako and Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell to call on should be a force.

Farrell is starting to take control of this England team - he captained them out in South Africa last summer in Hartley's absence and, while he shared duties with the Northampton man in November, it was Farrell who was leading from the front.

He is in sole control for the crucial first game at least and it will be fascinating to see if he can cement that role.

England squad to face Ireland:

Forwards: Jack Clifford, Dan Cole, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Nathan Hughes, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Ben Moon, Brad Shields, Kyle Sinckler, Jack Singleton, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Harry Williams, Mark Wilson.

Backs: Chris Ashton, Mike Brown, Joe Cokanasiga, Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Jonny May, Jack Nowell, Dan Robson, Henry Slade, Ben Te'o, Ollie Thorley, Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs.

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