Danny Care’s World Cup ambitions are in jeopardy after he was dropped for the climax to England’s autumn series against Australia on Saturday.
The nation’s most capped scrum-half has been discarded alongside Alex Lozowski and Zach Mercer as head coach Eddie Jones reacted decisively to an unconvincing 35-15 victory over Japan at Twickenham.
Care was a senior figure in the second-string side fielded in a dry run for the four-day turnaround between pool games against Tonga and USA at next year’s World Cup, but he failed to justify his selection in a rare start under Jones.
Care opened the scoring against Japan with a third-minute try but Richard Wigglesworth replaced the Harlequins half-back for the final quarter and was part of England’s revival, resulting in his inclusion in the 28-man squad preparing to face the Wallabies.
With Wigglesworth now second choice behind Ben Youngs, Care is facing the prospect of missing Japan 2019 altogether.
“Selection is always a response to performance. We weren’t happy with some aspects on Saturday and he can go away and work on them,” Jones said.
Lozowski’s omission is less of a surprise after he waved centre Ryoto Nakamura through under the posts for one of Japan’s two tries and his place among the 28 goes to Piers Francis.
Mercer misses out because Nathan Hughes has completed his six-week ban for punching and conduct prejudicial to the interest of the game, the latter charge incurred for tweeting “what a joke” at the disciplinary process.
The Fijian-born Wasps man is likely to be involved in the matchday 23 named by Jones on Thursday and will supply a ball-carrying threat at number eight.
“Nathan did a bit of training yesterday (Sunday) so he’s not bad. We’ll wait and see if he could start,” Jones said.
A sixth consecutive victory over the side Jones coached for four years until 2005 would complete a successful autumn after wins over South Africa and Japan were offset only by a controversial loss to New Zealand.
Ireland succeeded where England failed, however, by toppling the All Blacks 16-9 in Dublin on Saturday in a result Jones believes will only serve to make the world champions stronger.
“If I was Steve Hansen I’d be hurting a lot now, but I’d also have the knowledge that we’re going to learn a lot from this game. They’ll come back stronger and better,” he said.
“But it will have no consequence on the World Cup. None at all. Instead, it showed where rugby is going.
“The big games are more brutal, more physical, longer, with shorter periods of play and the physical demands on the players are getting greater and greater.
“And the mental demands. Now the games are longer, the players have more time to think so you have 60 minutes of a 100-minute game where the players have to think.”