With one month to go until the start of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, England have named the squad that will travel to France – with the notable omissions of Henry Slade and Alex Dombrandt from the side.
Despite playing at the last two World Cups, the biggest news from Steve Borthwick’s squad announcement is that Exeter Chief’s Henry Slade has been axed from the squad.
The news came as a shock due to Slade’s experience within the England set up, standing in as vice captain multiple times throughout his international career. However, despite having started four of England’s Six Nations matches this year in a disappointing campaign which saw them finish in an underwhelming fourth place, Borthwick has opted to take an extra forward instead.
Slade’s omission has opened the door for Joe Marchant who makes the 33-man squad in his place. Marchant announced he would be leaving the Gallagher Premiership for a move to Stade Francais back in December in an attempt to try get back into the international side after being left out of the squad in November.
Since then a change of head coach has given him a second-chance under Steve Borthwick. His extra power and ability to play on the wing, as he did in the defeat to Wales on Saturday, as well as centre has also helped him to stand out as an valuable option to call upon in England’s World Cup squad.
His former Harlequins teammate Alex Dombrandt hasn’t been so fortunate though. Despite making 14 caps since making his England debut in 2021, the No 8 is one of eight players who have been left out of the squad despite featuring in the England’s most recent warm-up defeat to Wales.
Elsewhere in the squad England’s most capped player Ben Youngs will face competition at scrum-half with Leicester Tiger’s Jack van Poortvliet and Harlequin’s Danny Care who continued his international revival when he started alongside his club teammate Marcus Smith at the Principality Stadium against Wales.
The squad is also heavily bolstered in the forward ranks with a split of 19 forwards and 14 backs. Familiar names like Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinclair and Tom Curry will all be on the plane to France.
Since taking over from Eddie Jones as England’s head coach in December, Steve Borthwick has trusted Owen Farrell with the armband and will do once again in France with the announcement that he will captain the side in his third World Cup.
This also suggests that Owen Farrell will be England’s first choice fly-half heading into the tournament, but his ability to play as a centre could benefit Marcus Smith or George Ford who will also be a part of England’s plans in France.
Ellis Genge, who has also taken the armband on multiple occasions under Borthwick, has also been named as vice-captain alongside Courteney Lawes.
Manu Tualigi and Elliot Daly are also part of a squad stacked with plenty of experience – one that totals more than 1400 caps combined. In fact, sixteen players named in Borthwick’s squad were also part of the squad that finished as runners-up four years ago in Japan.
Heading to their first World Cups, 20-year-old Harry Arundell has the potential to be a point of difference for England with his electric pace, while Saracens hooker Theo Dan will be on the search for a memorable start to his international career having only just made his England debut during this summer’s warm-up matches.
England will continue their preparation with a set of Rugby World Cup warm-up fixtures ahead of the biggest competition in international rugby.
After slumping to a lacklustre 20-9 defeat to Wales in Cardiff, they will be out for revenge at Twickenham Stadium in their next Summer Nations series clash with Wales. After that they will a face a tough test against Six Nation champions Ireland in Dublin which will be a good measure of where the squad is at before finishing their preparations against Fiji and then heading to France.
England start their World Cup campaign against Argentina on Saturday 9th September – arguably the toughest challenge in their pool also featuring Japan, Chile and Samoa. If they manage to qualify from the group then Wales or Australia could stand between them and a semi-final showdown with potentially one of New Zealand or France at Stade de France.
England’s 2023 Rugby World Cup Squad:
Forwards: Ollie Chessum, Dan Cole, Tom Curry, Theo Dan, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler, George Martin, David Ribbans, Bevan Rodd, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Billy Vunipola, Jack Walker, Jack Willis.
Backs: Henry Arundell, Danny Care, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Ollie Lawrence, Max Malins, Joe Marchant, Marcus Smith, Freddie Steward, Manu Tuilagi, Jack van Poortvliet, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.