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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Gerard Meagher

Tuilagi axed as Borthwick rings changes for England’s Six Nations opener

Steve Borthwick instructs his players during a training session at Pennyhill .
Steve Borthwick instructs his players during a training session at Pennyhill . Photograph: Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection/Getty Images

Steve Borthwick has made sweeping changes to the England starting lineup for his first match in charge, omitting Manu Tuilagi from the squad to face Scotland on Saturday. Tuilagi’s absence represents one of eight changes from the November defeat by South Africa with Ollie Hassell-Collins and Ben Curry among the eye-catching inclusions.

Tuilagi started three of England’s autumn Tests – he was rested against Japan – but Borthwick has decided to dispense with someone who has been such an important fixture to the side for the past decade, injury permitting. His absence means Joe Marchant comes into the side at outside centre with Borthwick persevering with the 10-12 axis of Marcus Smith and the captain, Owen Farrell.

Jamie George starts at hooker having come through the return to play protocols after a concussion while Curry wins his second cap at openside flanker. Hassel-Collins is the only uncapped player in the side, rewarded for his excellent form for London Irish. There is a place on the bench for Dan Cole, who could win his first cap since the 2019 World Cup final.

Borthwick said: “There are few fixtures in the rugby calendar that excite both players and supporters alike more than the annual Six Nations meeting of the auld enemy as they battle for the honour of lifting the Calcutta Cup. Another packed Twickenham will witness the start of the next chapter of English rugby in one of the most keenly contested tournaments in the world.

“There is no doubt that this England team shares the supporters’ sense of eager anticipation. To a man, the players are determined to play with the commitment, fight and desire that is at the very heart of representing England, the sort of passion that our tremendous supporters rightly expect.”

Freddie Steward continues at full-back with Max Malins coming on to the right wing and Jack van Poortvliet staying at scrum-half. Up front, Ellis Genge, George and Kyle Sinckler comprise the front row and Ollie Chessum joins Maro Itoje in the second row.

England: F Steward (Leicester); M Malins (Saracens), J Marchant (Harlequins), O Farrell (Saracens, capt), O Hassell-Collins (London Irish); M Smith (Harlequins), J Van Poortvliet (Leicester); E Genge (Bristol), J George (Saracens), K Sinckler (Bristol), M Itoje (Saracens), O Chessum (Leicester), L Ludlam (Northampton), B Curry (Sale), A Dombrandt (Harlequins).

Replacements: J Walker (Harlequins), M Vunipola (Saracens), D Cole (Leicester), N Isiekwe (Saracens), B Earl (Saracens), B Youngs (Leicester), O Lawrence (Bath), A Watson (Leicester).

Scotland: S Hogg (Exeter); K Steyn (Glasgow), H Jones (Glasgow), Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow), D van der Merwe (Edinburgh), F Russell (Racing 92) B White (London Irish); P Schoeman (Edinburgh), G Turner (Glasgow), WP Nel (Edinburgh), R Gray (Glasgow), G Gilchrist (Edinburgh), J Ritchie (Edinburgh), L Crosbie (Edinburgh), M Fagerson (Glasgow). Replacements: F Brown (Glasgow), J Bhatti (Glasgow), S Berghan (Glasgow), J Gray (Exeter) J Dempsey (Glasgow), G Horne (Glasgow), B Kinghorn (Edinburgh), C Harris (Gloucester).

Lewis Ludlam, Curry and Alex Dombrandt form a completely different back row to the one that took the field against South Africa.

On the bench, Mako Vunipola and the uncapped Jack Walker provided front-row cover with Cole while the Saracens pair of Nick Isiekwe and Ben Earl join them. Ben Youngs and Anthony Watson take the total of Borthwick’s former Leicester charges in the squad to six while Ollie Lawrence completes the replacements.

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