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Jones cautiously optimistic over Smith and Steward

Jones cautiously optimistic over Smith and Steward

Marcus Smith

Eddie Jones has given an update on his England squad with cautious optimism that Marcus Smith and Freddie Steward will be fit enough to be named today in the side to face Tonga at Twickenham on Saturday.

England open their Autumn Nations Series campaign with a squad that combines some experienced campaigners and a number of new faces and Smith and Steward could be two of those in line for a start on Saturday.

Both had been struggling with leg issues, but Jones was hopeful that they would come through and be fit to feature.

He said: “There are two other niggles where we’re not sure if the players will be available to be selected. Marcus Smith and Freddie Steward have minor leg injuries, but we’re cautiously optimistic that they’ll be available for selection for the game against Tonga.”

Talking about Smith, who could start at fly-half, Jones said: “He hasn’t done much (training) this week – just a bit of ball-handling.

“We’re being conservative with him but we’re cautiously optimistic he’ll be right to play. The last call we make is 48 hours before the game.

“We’re not desperate, but we are keen for him to be involved in the game. It’s not frustrating, it’s part and parcel of preparing a team; players pick up small knocks, and he’ll recover well. If we don’t get to see him this week, we will get to see him next week.”

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While Smith and Steward could feature, England will be without Max Malins and Raffi Quirke, both of whom have stayed with the squad to rehab injuries and could come back into contention later in the Autumn Nations Series.

With Quirke unavailable, Northampton Saints scrum-half Alex Mitchell is in line for a Test debut as one of two nines in the squad alongside the experienced Ben Youngs.

And it is that mixture of youth and experience that Jones is relishing as he looks to rebuild his squad after a fifth-place finish in the Guinness Six Nations.

He added: “There’s very few times at international level that you get to rebuild a team a second time, I’ve got the opportunity personally to do that, bringing these young players through and at the same time trying to get the best out of the experienced players is a very good challenge.

“The expectation at international level is that you never drop off so we’ve got to make sure we can blend the team as quickly as we can to put in the sort of performances we want to see.”

England will name their team for Tonga at 11:30am on Thursday.

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