England’s Luke Cowan-Dickie has been ruled out of the World Cup due to injury.
Eight is an uncapped number. Tom Willis is among the 41-man training squad, although Gloucester-bound back-row forward Zach Mercer is not among them.
Northampton scrum-half Alex Mitchell is out, with Danny Care, Ben Youngs, and Jack van Poortvliet the only remaining nines.
On August 7, head coach Steve Borthwick will announce his final 33-man roster.
England will play four warm-up games in August before commencing their World Cup campaign against Argentina on September 9 in Marseille.
“We hope today’s announcement is the start of something special for our supporters, who I know are as excited about the tournament as we are,” Borthwick added.
Willis triumphs over Mercer.
Tom Willis, who is joining brother Jack in the Saracens squad for the new season, has impressed since joining Bordeaux-Begles in November following the demise of Wasps.
However, given England’s lack of depth at number eight and his performances for Montpellier in the French Top 14, where he won player of the season in 2022, Mercer’s omission comes as a significant surprise.
Given Billy Vunipola’s knee injury in April, Tom Willis is in pole position to make the final squad. Vunipola remains in camp as he continues his rehabilitation with aspirations of returning in August.
Cowan-Dickie’s absence at hooker will be felt strongly, with all other possibilities except Jamie George lacking experience.
Cowan-Dickie responded to the squad announcement by tweeting, “Everything happens for a reason,” adding, “Gutted is an understatement, but I’ll be back.”
Newcastle’s Jamie Blamire and Saracens rookie Theo Dan, who played in the Premiership final, are both in the squad, while Harlequins’ Jack Walker is still recovering from an injury.
“Despite all of Luke’s incredible work and progress, his shoulder has not improved sufficiently for him to be considered for selection for the World Cup,” Borthwick continued.
“We wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see him back on the field soon.”
Dan, along with Tom Willis, ex-London Irish flanker Tom Pearson, Quins flyer Cadan Murley, and Gloucester prop Val Rapava-Ruskin, is one of five uncapped players in the squad.
Borthwick’s selections at scrum-half also came as a surprise, with Mitchell, a fixture during the Six Nations, dropped from the squad.
There’s also no room for Raffi Quirke from Sale, Harry Randall from Bristol, or Ben Spencer from Bath.
With only three number nines remaining, Care stands a good chance of making the final cut at the age of 36.
The 87-cap Quins veteran made his long-awaited Test return on the 2022 summer tour of Australia, but he did not play in the following fall or the subsequent Six Nations.
“We’re excited to be able to bring together a full training squad for the first time and focus on the next stage of our World Cup preparations,” Borthwick said.
Forwards: Jamie Blamire, Dan Cole, Tom Curry, Theo Dan, Alex Dombrandt, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler, George Martin, Tom Pearson, Val Rapava-Ruskin, David Ribbans, Bevan Rodd, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Jack Willis, Tom Willis, Tom Willis.
Backs: Danny Care, Joe Cokanasiga, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Max Malins, Joe Marchant, Jonny May, Cadan Murley, Guy Porter, Henry Slade, Marcus Smith, Freddie Steward, Manu Tuilagi, Jack van Poortvliet, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.