Wallabies begin World Cup prep, Ashton withdraws from England training squad

Rugby World Cup
Beth Newman Profile
by AAP & Beth Newman

Halfback Nic White had his first taste of Wallabies' World Cup preparations this week after linking up with the national squad.

White was among group of players that trained in Sydney on the weekend, with the exception of the Brumbies who travelled to Argentina for their Super Rugby semi-final and some players who are still on annual leave.

A number of players will be working in their home states this week before the group convenes in Brisbane for a four-day World Cup conditioning camp that kicks off on Sunday.

White has been playing with Premiership heavyweights Exeter Chiefs in recent seasons but is set to be eligible for Wallabies selection by  signing a deal with an Australian Super Rugby club.

He is yet to confirm where his Super Rugby destination will be, but he has been strongly linked with a return to the Brumbies.

White is still signed with the Chiefs through to the end of the 2019-20 season, which would theoretically make him available for the tail end of the 2020 Super Rugby season but more realistically, the 2021 season.

The Wallabies play their first Rugby Championship Test in Johannesburg on July against the Springboks before a home Test against Argentina in Brisbane.

That Pumas Test is the first of three home Wallabies games in the lead-up to the tournament, with the Bledisloe Cup opener in Perth on August 10.

Australia isn't the only country taking a big step towards the World Cup, with some key developments out of England and South Africa overnight as well.

ENGLAND

Chris Ashton will start for England. Photo: Getty ImagesChris Ashton has all but ended his hopes of playing at this year's World Cup in Japan by withdrawing from England's training squad due to his wife's pregnancy.

A statement issued by England's governing Rugby Football Union on Sunday said coach Eddie Jones would not call up a replacement for the 32-year-old wing, whose last England appearance came during a Six Nations international against France at Twickenham in February.

Ashton, who came back to English club rugby at the end of last season after a stint in France, said in that RFU statement: "When I returned from Toulon last season it was for two reasons -- firstly for my family and secondly to try and realise the dream of playing for England again.

"Pulling on the white shirt is always special and I'm grateful to Eddie for giving me the opportunity to have done so again.

"My wife, Melissa, is pregnant with our second child and I don't feel it is right for me to commit to being away in camp at this stage," explained Ashton, who who has scored 20 tries in 44 Tests.

The powerful flyer, who played alongside England captain Owen Farrell at Saracens, added: "In the meantime I wish Owen and the boys all the very best with their preparation over the coming months."

SOUTH AFRICA

Faf de Klerk scored the final try for the hosts. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Springboks will welcome back nine overseas-based players in their initial pre-World Cup training squad.

Marcell Coetzee, Rynardt Elstadt, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Faf de Klerk, Cheslin Kolbe, Willie le Roux, Cobus Reinach and Frans Steyn have all been included in the 26-man group to being preparations for September's World Cup.

Players from Super Rugby quarter-finalists the Bulls and Sharks will join up with the group on Tuesday (AEST).

Forwards

Schalk Brits (Vodacom Bulls), Marcell Coetzee (Ulster, Ireland), Lood de Jager (Vodacom Bulls), Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), Rynardt Elstadt (Toulouse, France), Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers), Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), Vincent Koch (Saracens, England), Siya Kolisi (DHL Stormers), Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions), Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), Franco Mostert (Gloucester, England), Marvin Orie (Emirates Lions), Kwagga Smith (Emirates Lions).

Backs

Damian de Allende (DHL Stormers), Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks, England), Aphiwe Dyantyi (Emirates Lions), Elton Jantjies (Emirates Lions), Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers), Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse, France), Dillyn Lleyds (DHL Stormers), Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz, Japan), Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints, England), Frans Steyn (Montpellier, France).