TWICKENHAM – Danny Cipriani was left out by coach Eddie Jones when England's squad for the November internationals at Twickenham was announced on Thursday.
The fly-half has been in fine form for Gloucester this season, and was named Premiership player of the month for September, but that was not enough to persuade Jones to include him in a 36-man squad for next month's home Tests against South Africa, New Zealand, 2019 World Cup hosts Japan and Australia.
Despite being England's starting No 10 in their most recent game against South Africa in June and producing an excellent opening to the season at his new club, Jones left him out of an initial training squad and the Australian stuck with his decision on Thursday.
Instead Owen Farrell and George Ford were the recognised fly-halves, with utility backs Henry Slade and Alex Lozowski able to provide cover.
'Things to work on'
“George and Owen are our two first-choice No 10s,” Jones told reporters at a Twickenham press conference. “He (Cipriani) still has things he need to work on.”
Wing Chris Ashton returned despite yet having to make his debut for new club Sale with his seven-week ban for a tip-tackle elapsing this weekend.
In midfield, Manu Tuilagi was recalled following a succession of injuries, with Ben Te'o - who has not played this season because of thigh and ankle problems - also vying for a place at centre.
Meanwhile No 8 Ben Morgan returned for the first time since the 2015 World Cup after a six-week ban given to Nathan Hughes early Thursday deprived Jones of another back-row forward with the likes of Billy Vunipola, Sam Simmonds and Chris Robshaw all injured.
England also had problems at loosehead prop, with Mako Vunipola ruled out through a calf injury and Joe Marler having retired from international duty.
That left Alex Hepburn and Ben Moon as the only recognised looseheads in a squad featuring eight uncapped players but missing omitted veteran forwards James Haskell and Dan Cole.
Some 18 players are unavailable to Jones through a combination of injury, suspension and retirement.
But the former Australia and Japan coach tried to remain positive ahead of a gruelling series that starts with a match against the Springboks on November 3.
“I'm really happy with the squad. We can only control what we can control and injuries have happened,” said Jones.
The England squad is:
Chris Ashton (Sale), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Danny Care (Harlequins), Joe Cokanasiga (Bath), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Nathan Earle (Harlequins), Owen Farrell (Saracens, co-captain), George Ford (Leicester), Alex Lozowski (Saracens), Jonny May (Leicester), Jack Nowell (Exeter), Henry Slade (Exeter), Ben Te'o (Worcester), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Ben Youngs (Leicester)
Tom Curry (Sale), Charlie Ewels (Bath), Jamie George (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton, co-captain), Alec Hepburn (Exeter), Ted Hill (Worcester), Maro Itoje (Saracens), George Kruis (Saracens), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Zach Mercer (Bath), Ben Moon (Exeter), Ben Morgan (Gloucester), Michael Rhodes (Saracens), Nick Schonert (Worcester), Brad Shields (Wasps), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Elliott Stooke (Bath), Sam Underhill (Bath) Harry Williams (Exeter), Mark Wilson (Newcastle)
Fixtures (all at Twickenham, kick-offs 1400 GMT)
Nov 03: England v South Africa
Nov 10: England v New Zealand
Nov 17: England v Japan
Nov 24: England v Australia
Agence France-Presse (AFP)