Eddie Jones calls up eight uncapped England players for Six Nations

Mercer, 20, was called up to the England squad for the autumn internationals but was treated as an apprentice player by Jones. David Rogers - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images

England have called up eight uncapped players for their Six Nations opener against Italy as Eddie Jones gives a glimpse of the future with a number of established names absent.

Uncapped forwards Alec Hepburn, Lewis Boyce, Tom Dunn, Gary Graham and Zach Mercer are included while Marcus Smith, Nathan Earle and Harry Mallinder feature in the backs in England's 35-man squad.

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Billy Vunipola, Jack Clifford, Matt Mullan, Nathan Hughes, Beno Obano and Ellis Genge are absent through injury while James Haskell and Joe Marler miss the first two rounds of the championship due to suspension so England are light in the back-row and at loose-head.

Harlequins' Boyce and Exeter's Hepburn offer cover at loose-head, behind Mako Vunipola, while Newcastle's Graham and Bath's Mercer bolster the back-row -- Mercer was formerly included in an apprentice role, but has now lost that tag. Dunn will hope to challenge hookers Dylan Hartley and Jamie George for a spot in the squad.

There is no place in the squad for Manu Tuilagi or the injured Elliot Daly so Saracens' Earle and Northampton's Mallinder will look to push their cases for a Test debut. Smith, the Harlequins fly-half, still carries his apprentice tag.

Jack Nowell is included but intriguingly as an inside back, suggesting he will be used in the centres, while Ben Te'o is also named.

Eddie Jones has emphasised the 35-man squad is just for their first match of the 2018 championship on Feb. 4, rather than the whole Six Nations but it does give an indication of his thoughts as they seek to win their third title on the bounce.

"I have selected the strongest available squad to prepare for our opening match against Italy," Jones said. "It is important we start the tournament well and we will spend the next two weeks training smart and really fine-tuning our game plan for the Italy match next month. "I am expecting a really positive training camp in Portugal and while we have a few players unavailable through injury or suspension, it has provided opportunity for others who will be desperate to be involved in the Italy game."

Backs - Full backs: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Nathan Earle (Saracens), Harry Mallinder (Northampton Saints), Jonny May (Leicester Tigers), Denny Solomona (Sale Sharks), Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)

Backs - Inside backs: Danny Care (Harlequins), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Alex Lozowski (Saracens), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Ben Te'o (Worcester Warriors), Marcus Smith (Harlequins), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

Forwards - Back five: Gary Graham (Newcastle Falcons), Nick Isiekwe (Saracens), Maro Itoje (Saracens), George Kruis (Saracens), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs), Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby)

Forwards - Front Row: Lewis Boyce (Harlequins), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Tom Dunn (Bath Rugby), Jamie George (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs)

Players unavailable: Tom Curry (Sale Sharks), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby), Piers Francis (Northampton Saints), Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers), James Haskell (Wasps), Nathan Hughes (Wasps), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Matt Mullan (Wasps), Beno Obano (Bath Rugby), Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby), Will Spencer (Worcester Warriors), Billy Vunipola (Saracens)