LONDON (AP) — A slew of injuries and suspensions has forced England to select eight uncapped players in its 35-man squad for the first match of its Six Nations title defense.
England coach Eddie Jones says the absences will "test the depth and quality of English rugby, but that is a great challenge to have."
No. 8s Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes, flanker James Haskell and winger Elliot Daly are among the 13 players listed by England as unavailable for the match against Italy on Feb. 4. Four of the absentees are loosehead props.
The newcomers are: props Alec Hepburn and Lewis Boyce; hooker Tom Dunn; back-rowers Gary Graham and Zach Mercer; center Harry Mallinder; winger Nathan Earle; and fullback Marcus Smith.
Mercer is likely to start in the absence of Vunipola and Hughes.
The England squad will travel to Portugal on Sunday to begin a week-long camp ahead of the trip to Rome.
Forwards: Lewis Boyce, Dan Cole, Tom Dunn, Jamie George, Gary Graham, Dylan Hartley, Alec Hepburn, Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, Zach Mercer, Chris Robshaw, Sam Simmonds, Kyle Sinckler, Sam Underhill, Mako Vunipola, Harry Williams.
Backs: Mike Brown, Danny Care, Nathan Earle, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph, Alex Lozowski, Harry Mallinder, Jonny May, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Marcus Smith, Denny Solomona, Ben Te'o, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.