England leaves Ben Te'o out of RWC squad, springs surprises
LONDON (AP) — England left center Ben Te'o out of its Rugby World Cup squad on Monday after he was involved in a scuffle with a teammate at a training camp in Italy.
Te'o lost his place to utility back Piers Francis as coach Eddie Jones sprang a few surprises in his 31-man group destined for Japan next month.
Jones included uncapped wing Ruaridh McConnochie, a former sevens specialist, and also gave World Cup places to hooker Jack Singleton, flanker Lewis Ludlam and scrumhalf Willi Heinz just 24 hours after their test debuts.
They all made their first appearances in Sunday's victory over Wales. Ludlam was particularly impressive in the 33-19 win at Twickenham that prevented Wales replacing world champion New Zealand as rugby's top-ranked side.
As expected, Jones left out former captain Dylan Hartley, scrumhalf Danny Care, flyhalf Danny Cipriani and fullback Mike Brown, the player New Zealand-born Te'o had an altercation with at a camp in Treviso last month.
Loose forward Brad Shields, another New Zealand-born player, also missed out after sustaining a foot injury at the same training camp.
"A lot of good players have missed out, we feel for them, I feel for them personally," Jones said. "But as we know the World Cup is an incredible tournament where opportunities can present themselves and all those players who have missed out have been told they have to be ready."
Flyhalf Owen Farrell captains the squad in his second World Cup. England also has the experience of prop Dan Cole, second-rower Courtney Lawes and scrumhalf Ben Youngs, who will play in their third World Cups.
Brown was expected to be left out but inside center Te'o had been prominent in Jones' team when available and his exclusion was a surprise.
Heinz and first-choice Ben Youngs are the only two No. 9s in the squad. Flanker Tom Curry is in after he left the field against Wales with a shoulder injury that Jones said was only minor.
The Australian coach has significant World Cup experience — he was in charge of the Australia team that lost to England in the 2003 final and was a consultant with South African when the Springboks won in 2007.
Jones named his England squad nearly a month before the deadline.
"We have taken the decision to go early because of what we learned from previous campaigns," he said. "We want the squad to know early and now we can get on and be the best prepared England side there has ever been, ready to win the World Cup."
Forwards: Dan Cole, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Jack Singleton, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Mark Wilson.
Backs: Joe Cokanasiga, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell (captain), George Ford, Piers Francis, Willi Heinz, Jonathan Joseph, Jonny May, Ruaridh McConnochie, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.