Dylan Hartley has been left out of the England squad for the Six Nations opener against Ireland as Eddie Jones named four uncapped players.
The 32-year-old ‘co-captain’ is struggling with what his club Northampton Saints have described as a ‘grumbly knee’ and will not be fit for the curtain raiser on February 2. He has not played since December 21.
The next race for Hartley will be to recover in time for the France game the following Sunday. Owen Farrell will skipper the side in his absence.
Jones said: ‘Unfortunately, Dylan won’t be available for the Ireland game so we won’t take him to (the training camp in) Portugal but we are hopeful he will be back later in the Championship.
‘Owen will be captain by himself and he will certainly have great support from a number of senior players.’
And Jones started the mind-games ahead of the Dublin clash.
‘Ireland is the best side in the world,’ he said.
‘They are a very well coached and drilled side and have particular things they do well in the game. To beat Ireland, we need to compete brutally in all the contest areas of the game.’
Flanker Chris Robshaw also misses out on the squad having not yet got over knee surgery in October. Both will surely come back into contention later in the tournament.
However, Danny Care has been axed. England’s most-capped scrum-half has been left out of the 35-man squad, as just two No 9s are named – Dan Robson is preferred along with Ben Youngs.