Wayne Pivac’s side will be without their skipper for the defence of their Six Nations crown – Alun Wyn Jones is recuperating from a shoulder injury, and is set to miss the tournament.
Jones is among a star-studded list of absentees with which Pivac must contend, with as many as nine British and Irish Lions likely to miss the start of the tournament at the very least. Jones, George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric, Dan Lydiate, Ross Moriarty and Josh Navidi could all be absent.
As ever, the competition for back-row places is fierce even in the absence of a couple of old-stagers. Autumn stars Taine Basham and Ellis Jenkins are almost certain to be included, while developing force Jac Morgan has been in eye-catching form at the Ospreys. Cardiff-bound Wasps openside Thomas Young is now available, too.
Behind the scrum, Pivac is expected to narrow down a group of four fly-halves selected for the Autumn Nations Series to three – Callum Sheedy and Rhys Priestland look most vulnerable.
Dan Biggar and Jonathan Davies, alongside Jenkins, shape as leading contenders to take the captaincy in the absence of Jones.
Wales begin their tournament in Dublin for a meeting with Ireland before welcoming Scotland to the Principality Stadium a week later. The removal of crowd restrictions by the Welsh government means full crowds are expected in Cardiff for all three of Wales’ home games in the 2022 tournament.
Follow live updates, reaction and analysis below as Pivac releases his 36-man squad following England’s announcement:
The squad announcement is not far away at all now, but will Manu Tuilagi be included? The centre is yet to make his return to action after suffering his latest injury against South Africa in the autumn, though is expected to be back for Sale at some point before the end of the month. However with those involved at the Brighton training camp perhaps unlikely to feature for their clubs in the weekend before the start of the Six Nations, might Tuilagi be left out of the 36-player group to build up his fitness? We’ll find out in ten minutes or so.
Harry Latham-Coyle18 January 2022 10:34
Will any bolters make it?
It also wouldn’t be an Eddie Jones England squad without a surprise or two. One under-the-radar name who is believed to have been under consideration is Kyle Hatherell, Worcester Warriors’ South African-born back-rower who would offer plenty of physicality. The back row is an area of strength for England but Jones likes to look at new faces – could Hatherell or another unexpected name be included?
Harry Latham-Coyle18 January 2022 10:15
Room for an apprentice or two?
Eddie Jones likes to look to the future with his squads, often including younger players that he perceives as having real potential with an “apprentice” tag, allowing them to gain experience with the group without being included in the main squad.
That may be the route into this squad for Orlando Bailey, the young Bath fly-half with plenty of fine qualities.
Harry Latham-Coyle18 January 2022 09:56
New names in the frame
A group of 36 should allow Eddie Jones a chance to look at some newer faces. Boisterous back-rower bruiser Alfie Barbeary is among those tipped for a call-up having moved more permanently to the back of the scrum having come through as an impressive age-group hooker.
The Independent also understands that Jones and his coaching staff have been impressed by a number of Harlequins. Defensively sound wing Cadan Murley and well-rounded centre Luke Northmore have put themselves in contention with a series of solid showings, while resurgent tighthead Will Collier, who earned two caps in Argentina in 2017, is another who could sneak in.
Harry Latham-Coyle18 January 2022 09:49
England Six Nations Squad – Experienced trio set to again miss out
It is always best to expect the unexpected with Eddie Jones, but as things stand we are not expecting a recall for any of Mako Vunipola, Billy Vunipola and George Ford. The experienced trio were all left out for the Autumn Nations Series but have impressed with their performances at club level since, though it is unlikely they have done quite enough to convince Jones to hand them a Six Nations recall.
With Ford out, it is likely to again be Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell, who should be fit for the start of the tournament, as the first-choice fly-halves in the squad. Farrell is also expected to retain the captaincy.
Harry Latham-Coyle18 January 2022 09:42
England Six Nations Squad
Good morning. It’s a big day of Six Nations squad news with both England and Wales set to name their first squads for the tournament.
As mentioned, it will be an expanded group named by Eddie Jones at 10.45am GMT to assemble in Brighton next week for a training camp, and the Australian will have greater flexibility to bring players out and in to the group after the RFU reached an agreement with the Premiership clubs.
Harry Latham-Coyle18 January 2022 09:38
England to confirm Six Nations squad
Eddie Jones is set to confirm his England’s Six Nations 2022 squad with an expanded limit of 36 players this year.
One of the dynamics to this squad is Jones’ ability to select unvaccinated players despite strict travel rules that could rule them out of two of England’s three away fixtures, notably a possible title decider against France on Super Saturday.
That should give Jones the chance to experiment more, with young fly half Orlando Bailey, 20, one to watch. Bailey’s inclusion could cast doubt over George Ford’s future, with the Leicester Tiger dropped at the end of last year by Jones.
A year ago Jones could only select 28 players with Covid causing issues throughout the campaign and the Red Rose finished a dismal fifth, meaning there is extra motivation here.
Wales were triumphant in 2021, grabbing the Triple Crown, but missed out on the Grand Slam after defeat in a thrilling game at France on the final weekend of the campaign.
Jones will be optimistic too after a statement victory over world champions South Africa at Twickenham last year.
It promises to be a wide-open tournament following a surge in form from both Ireland, after a sensational victory over the New Zealand, and France’s eye-catching style, which also proved too much for a weary All Blacks side in the Autumn Nations.
Ben Burrows18 January 2022 09:14