England name suspended duo for Six Nations

by AAP

James Haskell and Joe Marler have been included in the England squad that will face Italy in their Six Nations opener despite the fact both players are suspended.

Wasps flanker Haskell and Harlequins prop Marler were handed bans this month - for a dangerous tackle and a dangerous clear-out of a ruck respectively - and they did not attend England's 34-man training camp in Portugal.

The duo will miss England's opening fixtures, in Rome and then against Wales at Twickenham on February 10, but head coach Eddie Jones has called up the experienced players nevertheless.

A statement published on englandrugby.com said Haskell and Marler would attend camp before England travel to Rome at the weekend.

Five-eighth Marcus Smith of Harlequins is among the eight uncapped players in a squad who are aiming to defend the Six Nations title they retained last year.

Zach Mercer, Tom Dunn, Alec Hepburn, Nathan Earle, Harry Mallinder, Lewis Boyce and Gary Graham are the other new faces.

Meanshile, Scotland forward Richie Gray has been ruled out of Scotland's Six Nations opener against Wales.

The 64-times capped Toulouse lock sat out last week's three-day training camp in Edinburgh with a calf injury.

Now the Scottish Rugby Union has confirmed the 28-year-old will remain in France this week for treatment with his club side's medics.

While he will miss this weekend's Cardiff clash Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend hopes to have him back for the later stages of the tournament.

"Richie wasn't involved in the autumn or the summer tour so it's a situation we have been able to handle in the past," assistant coach Mike Blair said.

"Obviously he is a quality player and a guy we're really keen to see back and how he fits in - but he also needs to get himself right. There's no point having him here if he's not 100 per cent.

"When will he be back? Sooner rather than later but we can't put an exact time on it right now."

Jonny Gray is all but certain to start this weekend. Photo: Getty ImagesGray's absence means his brother Jonny is likely to start alongside either Ben Toolis or Grant Gilchrist in the second row at the Principality Stadium.

But the younger Gray admits he is disappointed not to be lining up alongside his sibling.

"I'm going to miss him first and foremost," said the Glasgow lock. "It would be great to have him here. It's been a while since I've seen him and I'm absolutely gutted for him.

"Hopefully he can come back soon - I don't think it's something too serious."

Gray's setback is the latest injury blow to befall Scotland ahead of the Six Nations, with hookers Ross Ford and Fraser Brown and props Zander Fagerson, WP Nel, Darryl Marfo, Allan Dell and Al Dickinson all currently on the casualty list, while No.3 Simon Berghan is suspended for the Cardiff encounter.