LONDON - Eddie Jones says his decision to axe Danny Cipriani from England's training squad wasn't influenced by the fly-half's off-field problems. Cipriani was convicted of common assault and resisting arrest on a pre-season tour with Premiership club Gloucester.
The 30-year-old was fined a total of £4,000 ($5,300) following the incident outside a nightclub during Gloucester's pre-season tour to Jersey in August. He avoided a ban despite being found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the game after England rugby chiefs decided not to impose any further sanctions over the incident.
Despite being England's starting fly-half in their most recent game against South Africa in June and producing an excellent opening to the season at his new club, Jones has left him out of the 36-man squad. But England boss Jones insists it is form and not Cipriani's indiscretion that has shaped his thinking, with Owen Farrell and George Ford the two fly-halves called up.
"That's the case, 100 per cent. We've decided just to have two stand-offs in the squad for this particular camp because we want them to get a lot of training time," Jones said. "At the moment we've got Owen and George, who I believe are the first two fly-halves, and then comes Danny.
"Danny's probably third or fourth choice and he knows what he's got to work on, which is between Danny and I. He's disappointed but he understands. He's desperate to play for England, which is terrific."
Manu Tuilagi makes his first appearance in an England squad in more than a year after overcoming a dreadful succession of injuries. Serious groin and knee problems have prevented the destructive three-quarter from making an international start since 2014, his last appearance coming as a replacement against Wales two years ago. The 27-year-old has started all three of Leicester's games this season and capped a fine performance against Newcastle with a try.
"It's the first time in the three years I've been in England that Manu's been fit," Jones said. "He's put together a series of games and we're looking forward to him continuing on that run. He's got the opportunity to come in and show us what he's got."
Chris Ashton was included despite being midway through a seven-week ban for a tip tackle made during Sale's pre-season victory at Castres. Ashton has yet to make a competitive appearance for the Sharks following his move from Toulon, but Jones will take a look at the rugby league convert before naming his squad for the forthcoming internationals. "It's a judgement. Selection is a judgement, and my judgement is that Ashton's going to be important for us in November," Jones said.
England's squad for the internationals will be announced on October 18 before a training camp in Portugal. The four-Test series features matches against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.