BEN TE’O and Mike Brown were axed by England for brawling during the team’s Italian World Cup training camp.
Eddie Jones dropped the pair this week – but gave no explanation for doing so with both men fit to face Wales.
Yesterday assistant John Mitchell was also cagey over Te’o’s shock absence.
But it has since been revealed by The Times that an incident erupted between the players whilst on a team social organised by the backroom staff in Treviso last week.
The idea of the whole trip and exercise was to “bond and get closer as a team” – but it appears it was anything but for centre Te’o and full-back Mike Brown.
Both players are fierce competitors on the pitch and this isn’t the first time that Te’o has been in breach of team discipline.
Only in March this year he was hammered for a late-night boozing session with no.8 Billy Vunipola.
Jones names his 31-man squad just 24 hours after England take on Wales at Twickenham tomorrow.
Te’o and Brown aren’t out of the race yet, but Jones must decide if he can trust all his players when he takes them to a global tournament where they could be together for 60 days.
As the fight for places on the pitch hots up Willi Heinz answered England’s 999 call as Eddie Jones rolled the scrum-half dice in World Cup despair.
The 32-year-old is a shock contender to be on the plane after being picked for his debut against Wales tomorrow.
Heinz by name and nature, you could say, as it feels like Jones has had well over 57 varieties of half-back pairings in 2019 alone.
In fact the New Zealand-born star, 32, is the SIXTH scrum-half the Aussie coach has picked in just nine months.
Now the Gloucester man has 80 minutes to convince Jones he can halt the halfback hoodoo and be Ben Youngs’ understudy.
Heinz, a former teammate of All Blacks legend Dan Carter at the Crusaders, is also, incredibly, one of two vice-captains to assist fly-half George Ford, who replaces rested skipper Owen Farrell.
Jones, 59, has already ripped apart his squad this summer and ditched 396 caps of Testmatch experience.
He has axed skipper Dylan Hartley, flanker Chris Robshaw, full-back Mike Brown and scrum-halves Danny Care and Richard Wigglesworth.
So he has already broken the international careers of some of the biggest names in the Premiership.
And now he is about to make Heinz’s, and possibly uncapped winger Ruaridh McConnochie’s, too.
Heinz is the oldest England debutant since Colin White in 1983, while McConnochie completes a sensational journey from a Team GB Sevens star who won silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Assistant coach and Kiwi John Mitchell, the former All Black player and boss, said: “You are making big decisions on young men’s careers.
“They all want to go to a Rugby World Cup.
“Having been in those shoes before, I can fully empathise with the feelings and emotions that he goes through.
“It comes back to creating the right mix.
“From experience, I think if you can focus on that rather than the individual, then clearly the way you communicate is very important and I think Eddie is very good at that.”
Uncapped hooker Jack Singleton, flanker Lewis Ludlam and centre Joe Marchant will be on the bench and desperate for a chance.
Six Nations Grand Slam winning boss Warren Gatland is showing no mercy as he picks a brutally strong side to travel along the M4 to Twickenham.
Heinz, who qualified through an English grandmother, is ready for the fire-breathing Dragons. He said: “I didn’t come over here assuming that I would get an opportunity.
“My grandmother was born and raised in Bishop’s Waltham near Southampton.
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“She met my grandfather, who was with the New Zealand Navy in World War Two.
“They hit it off pretty quickly and then she was on a boat back to New Zealand.
“She was an avid sports fan and a proud English woman. I know she would be hugely proud of me getting this chance.”