Chris Ashton has been axed from England’s rugby union World Cup training squad as head coach Stuart Lancaster fine-tunes the hosts’ preparations – but code-hopping star Sam Burgess is safe.
With the tournament due to get underway in September, Lancaster has to reduce his squad to a final 31-man group by August 31 and Ashton was the highest-profile casualty of his round of cuts, which included six other players.
Fellow wings Semesa Rokoduguni and Marland Yarde, centre Kyle Eastmond, halfback Lee Dickson, flanker Matt Kvesic and prop Matt Mullan have also been dropped.
As expected, NRL convert Burgess remains in the squad, while Danny Cipriani also makes the cut alongside fellow five-eighths George Ford and Owen Farrell.
The changes reduce the number of players who will be returning to the squad’s training camp to 39.
“It has been difficult to narrow down the squad as everyone has contributed and given their all,” Lancaster said.
“But what I’ve said to those guys who are not coming back in on Sunday is that the door is not closed by any means.
“They are only an injury away and there is a lot of international rugby to be played this season, culminating in a three-Test tour to Australia.”
The removal of Ashton, Yarde and Rokoduguni leaves England with only three wings left in contention with Anthony Watson, Jack Nowell and Jonny May the trio who will return to camp on Sunday.
England have their contingent of halfbacks now that Dickson has gone, leaving Ben Youngs, Richard Wigglesworth and Danny Care on course to make the final cut.
England play the first of three warm-up games against France on August 15 at Twickenham, where the World Cup starts when Lancaster’s side face Fiji on September 18.