Veterans may return for Steve Borthwick’s first Six Nations squad

Steve Borthwick announced as England Rugby Men's Head Coach and will choose the English's 2023 Six Nations squad

England coach Steve Borthwick will soon pick his eagerly awaited first Six Nations squad.

There may be an ‘understandable’ leaning toward his Leicester Tigers England representatives plus, the return of a couple of veterans. Anthony Watson and Dan Cole are among several veterans who might be considered.

Charlie Inglefield looks to pick a possible first XV for England’s important clash with Scotland at Twickenham, on February 4.

Veterans may return for Steve Borthwick’s first Six Nations squad

Full-back: Freddie Steward
Easy pick. Freddie Steward has had an outstanding 12 months at the back for England. He is so good under the high ball but more importantly, is improving on his attacking incursions into the line.

One of the first picks on England’s team sheet.

Wings: Anthony Watson and Henry Arundell
Jonny May and Jack Nowell have been wonderful servants to England rugby. However, they may be on the outer if Henry Arundell makes it back in time to join the Six Nations squad (if not Harlequins’ Cadan Murley should get a shot). Arundell looks tailor-made to be a pin-up superstar for England.

Anthony Watson is back to something like his best and must surely start. London Irish’s Ollie Hassell-Collins has had a superb start to the season and must be close to getting a crack at the highest level.

Centers: Ollie Lawrence and Henry Slade
This position is a constant source of worry for England over the last few years. Manu Tuilagi should be wrapped in cotton wool, leaving Ollie Lawrence to start against Scotland and Italy.

Lawrence has been superb for Bath since his arrival from Worcester. What may persuade Borthwick to choose Lawrence over the promising Dan Kelly is the consistency that Lawrence shows in a struggling Bath team. His performance away from Saracens in October was a reminder of what he can do against very decent opposition. Lawrence ran for 254 running metres against the likes of Owen Farrell, Nick Tompkins, and Elliot Daly.

Henry Slade appears to be certain, although player fitness has removed key men previously – though Slade’s name is likely to be underlined by February.

Fly-half: Owen Farrell
Such a difficult call. Borthwick would start with Farrell but, relieve him of his captaincy duties.

Everyone knows how good Farrell is and being able to just concentrate on his playing duties could galvanise him for a decent World Cup shift. Marcus Smith’s injury has come at a bad time for him. Smith will be England’s fly-half for many years to come but may have to play second fiddle in 2023.

Scrum-half: Van Poortvliet
Jack van Poortvliet deserves to continue in the England jumper. He has shown a few times in his short international career that he can excel at the international level. Sale’s Raffi Quirke will hopefully stay clear of injuries because when he is fit he must be in the Six Nations squad.

Ben Youngs’ time may have come as Borthwick will be looking for quicker distribution to get England’s attack going.

Props: Ellis Genge and Dan Cole
England’s front five has had a chastening 12 months and it may be that England should bring back the evergreen Dan Cole. Watching Cole chase down Clermont’s backs was wonderful to watch last weekend. He looks as fit as he has ever been and his experience could be important as Borthwick looks to build his squad.

Kyle Sinckler struggled at scrum time during the autumn and is hampered by a hip injury so his place is under threat.

Hooker: Jamie George
There are calls for George to be dropped but he is still England’s premier hooker. Last weekend against Lyon, he was chipping through to his winger Sean Maitland to score. Fabulous for sure yet what England needs from him is to get his basics back in order.

George had a quiet autumn series, and he must step up in the Six Nations. Luke Cowan-Dickie just holds off Gloucester’s new signing George McGuigan.

Second row: Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum
Another problem area for England. Enough of playing Itoje in the blindside jumper, he is too effective in the second row. Ollie Chessum is a great prospect and Steve Borthwick knows him well. Chessum is in the Tom Croft mould in the loose and is a disciple of Leicester’s hard-nosed forward pack.

A lot depends on whether Courtney Lawes can come back. Jonny Hill gave away far too many penalties in the autumn series and has to rediscover his form and discipline at Sale.

Back row: Tom Curry, Alex Dombrandt and Courtney Lawes
Billy Vunipola pays the price for an ineffective autumn nations series and Alex Dombrandt comes back at number eight. It is tough on Sam Simmonds but, he should be on the bench to cover the backrow positions.

Courtney Lawes provides the leadership, the work rate, and the granite-like defence that England needs at the moment. Tom Curry fits into the openside jumper. Bath’s Ted Hill might be a bolter if Lawes doesn’t make it.

Naming the new Captain; select Ellis Genge

Courtney Lawes’ fitness means that he is by no means certain of getting back into England colours. Therefore, with a new England coach, there should be a new captain. Ellis Genge fits the bill for a dynamic, brutally honest, and robust leader that England requires right now.

Farrell has done a sterling job but needs to rediscover his zip without the pressures of captaincy. Genge has got all the attributes to lead England in the 2023 World Cup.

READ MORE: Steve Borthwick England Rugby new chief takes ‘reins’ ahead of RWC2023

Consistent selection, a focus on attack and sorting the set-piece out.

No pressure then, Steve.

There are a lot of areas that need tinkering. Borthwick is well versed in the dark arts of the scrum and that will serve England well. England’s set-piece is no longer feared; as South Africa proved with their brutal dissection of England’s set-piece. Therefore, Borthwick will be tempted to bring back Joe Marler and/or Dan Cole.

Marler did a decent job repelling the formidable Sharks’ pack in Durban two weeks ago, whilst Cole was chasing down Clermont’s backs on his 300th appearance for the Tigers. Two old boys who are still good enough to be in the Six Nations squad.

The style that England play is a priority. Borthwick will have in his mind, for the playing group who could be part of the backline for the next 12 months. Anthony Watson’s dazzling footwork will surely see him back, and Henry Arundell is the spark that England desperately needs at the moment.

In time (hopefully), Borthwick will discard the Smith/Farrell partnership and pick players who are on form and play in their rightful positions. Five matches across the Guinness Six Nations should be the ample trial period to set his teams new goals and objectives.

What England’s team might look like for the visit to Scotland on February 4:

Freddie Steward
Anthony Watson
Henry Slade
Ollie Lawrence
Henry Arundell (if not fit Cadan Murley)
Owen Farrell
Jack van Poortvliet
Ellis Genge (C)
Jamie George
Dan Cole
Maro Itoje
Ollie Chessum
Courtney Lawes
Alex Dombrandt
Tom Curry

Replacements: Joe Marler, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Raffi Quirke (if not fit, Danny Care) Marcus Smith, Sam Simmonds, Val Rapava-Ruskin, Dave Ribbans, Tommy Freeman.


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