England’s Roko axed by Jones in squad shake-up

AXED: Two tries against Fiji on Saturday were not enough to earn Semesa Rokoduguni a place in Englands team to face Argentina this weekend.  Pictures: PA
AXED: Two tries against Fiji on Saturday were not enough to earn Semesa Rokoduguni a place in Englands team to face Argentina this weekend. Pictures: PA
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Semesa Rokoduguni has been dropped for England’s clash with Argentina on Saturday despite scoring two tries against Fiji.

Rokoduguni marked the end of his two-year international exile by crossing in each half of the 
58-15 rout at Twickenham, but will still be replaced in the starting XV by Jonny May.

England head coach Eddie Jones.

England head coach Eddie Jones.

It is the second time Rokoduguni has been axed immediately after making a Test appearance, the first taking place after defeat by New Zealand in 2014 on the grounds of stage fright.

Jones has referenced the need to handle the 29-year-old with care because of the treatment he received at the hands of Stuart Lancaster’s regime, only to now discard him for Argentina.

“I want Roko to play 30-40 Tests for England and to do that I’ve got to make sure that what happened to him last time doesn’t happen again. I’ve got to manage that player well. I want him to be right to play,” Jones said at the start of the autumn.

“I want his first Test back to be a game where he plays really well. If he does that, then his career will grow, but if he has another experience like he did in 2014, then he won’t play Test rugby again.”

Alex Goode has also been omitted from the 24-man squad retained for the visit of the Pumas with Mike Brown poised to return at full-back having been overlooked by Jones last weekend.

The indications from training yesterday afternoon were that May will line up on the right wing after being given an extra week to enhance his fitness having spent an extended spell on the sidelines with a knee problem.

On the left wing, Jones has opted to give Daly another opportunity after the Wasps man excelled against Fiji following his successful switch from outside centre.

George Kruis will play a role in the third match of the Old Mutual Wealth Series after being included among the 24, most likely as second row partner to Courtney Lawes – with Charlie Ewels on the bench.

Kruis has made a rapid return from ankle surgery and his comeback is well timed, with Joe Launchbury ruled out against Argentina and Australia through suspension.

Unless Jones opts for a six-two split between forwards and backs on the bench, one of the five back rows will be sacrificed when the team is named tomorrow morning.

Tom Wood is present once more and is favourite to oust Teimana Harrison at openside with Chris Robshaw and Billy Vunipola guaranteed starters and Nathan Hughes also in contention.

Jamie George has come to terms with playing a supporting role to England’s captain by accepting he is aiming for minutes not starts.

Jones has made it clear that Dylan Hartley, who has presided over a 11-Test winning run, will not be dislodged as starting hooker, claiming his rivals in the position must console themselves with second-half cameos.

At the front of the chasing pack is George, the Aviva Premiership’s joint leading try-scorer whose established set-piece expertise is being matched by a developing all-round game.

On playing form alone the 26-year-old Saracen should be taking his place in the front row and while benefiting from an increasing number of minutes – he played 29 in Saturday’s victory over Fiji – he knows Hartley is made indispensable by his leadership

“I’ve decided not to look at it like I’m the understudy to the captain,” George said.

“I’ve just got to be ready as I can be for when the opportunity comes, whether that is seven minutes off the bench or like the half an hour I got at the weekend.

“I need to impress every time I get the opportunity to.

“Dylan is doing a great job, he leads from the front. He’s a brilliant captain of this team.

“But the more I can impress in training, in games, the more game time potentially I get.

“That has been my mindset and Eddie didn’t really need to tell me that. It becomes obvious,” he said.

“It has been going well for me, I’ve been getting some good game time in the last two matches so I’m pretty happy with that.

“I’ve just got to keep working hard for when the time comes,” he added.

George made his debut in a World Cup warm-up match against France in 2015 and none of his 10 caps have come as a starter.

England squad

Forwards: D Cole (Leicester), C Ewels (Bath), J George (Saracens), T Harrison (Northampton), D Hartley (Northampton), N Hughes (Wasps), G Kruis (Saracens), C Lawes (Northampton), J Marler (Harlequins), C Robshaw (Harlequins), K Sinckler (Harlequins), B Vunipola (Saracens), M Vunipola (Saracens), T Wood (Northampton)

Backs: M Brown (Harlequins), D Care (Harlequins), E Daly (Wasps), O Farrell (Saracens), G Ford (Bath), J Joseph (Bath), J May (Gloucester), H Slade (Exeter), B Te’o (Worcester), B Youngs (Leicester).