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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Nick Purewal

Lawrence Dallaglio hopes Alex Dombrandt can end England’s No8 ‘merry-go-round’ in Six Nations opener

Out to impress: Alex Dombrand

(Picture: Action Images via Reuters)

Alex Dombrandt has the chance to end England's No8 "merry-go-round" in Saturday's Six Nations opener against Scotland.

The Harlequins back-rower will feature in the clash at Twickenham, with 2003 World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio urging England to nail down their personnel for the position.

Billy Vunipola was the big omission from new boss Steve Borthwick's Six Nations squad, with Dombrandt and Exeter's Sam Simmonds the specialist No8s selected.

Dombrandt will now pack down against Scotland, leaving former England skipper Dallaglio keen to see Borthwick's men move into a period of settled selection.

"It feels like we're continually talking about the No8 merry-go-round with England," Dallaglio told Standard Sport. "It's been batted backwards and forwards for quite some time now.

"Billy Vunipola went through a purple patch, had injuries, had found form again but they have gone elsewhere in Dombrandt and Simmons in the squad.

"So it seems it's a position that's been doing the rounds. As good as all those players are, through injury or form or erratic selection, none of them have been able to nail it down, so it's a great opportunity for that to happen now."

Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith will continue their 10-12 partnership against Scotland, one which Borthwick's predecessor, Eddie Jones, employed across all four autumn Tests.

Harlequins' Joe Marchant slots in at outside centre, with Manu Tuilagi overlooked and Elliot Daly, Henry Slade and Dan Kelly all out injured.

Marchant had been jettisoned by Jones after last summer's Australia tour, and he will join Stade Francais after the autumn's World Cup. But injuries and new boss Borthwick's plans have paved the way for the 26-year-old to be drafted in to face the Scots.

London Irish wing Ollie Hassell-Collins will win his first Test cap.

Borthwick's decision to keep captain Farrell at 12 with Smith at 10 remains a big call, but assistant coach Kevin Sinfield insisted selection is always more than meets the eye.

"Sometimes the sum of the parts is greater than the whole," said Sinfield. "There are some players in our side who enable players to go from a seven out of 10 to an eight out of 10 just by being there.

“There’s a lot more that goes into selecting a side than just what you guys see. It’s what we feel and what we see 24/7. That leadership element is really important.”

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