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By Ben Nurse
After weeks of eager anticipation from around the globe, England Head Coach Steve Borthwick has named his 33-man squad to travel to France for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Who is in and who is out? Let’s look at the chosen few and what they will provide at the fast-approaching showpiece tournament.
England’s World Cup 2023 squad – a few surprises on the list
- 1 England’s World Cup 2023 squad – a few surprises on the list
- 2 England’s form ahead of the World Cup
- 3 The team’s odds at World Cup 2023 – 14/1 (15.00)
- 4 England’s World Cup group and schedule
England’s World Cup squad for World Cup in France was announced over a month ago.
Our 33-player squad for next month’s Rugby World Cup in France#RWC2023
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) August 7, 2023
However, there have been some changes to this team unfortunately. So, we will now take a closer look at the England squad for World Cup and break it down by positions:
- Ellis Genge – Bristol Bears (49 caps)
- Bevan Rodd – Sale Sharks (3 caps)
- Joe Marler – Harlequins (79 caps)
- Kyle Sinckler – Bristol Bears (62 caps)
- Will Stuart – Bath Rugby (26 caps)
- Dan Cole – Leicester Tigers (100 caps)
The only real surprise here is Bevan Rodd, who was recently withdrawn from the training squad only to be reinstated days later, at the expense of Val Rapava Ruskin. Borthwick puts his faith in experience and all four props who featured in the 2019 World Cup Final loss to South Africa are selected and will be eager for redemption after a particularly tough night at scrum time in Yokohama.
- Jamie George – Saracens (77 caps)
- Theo Dan – Saracens (1 cap)
- Jack Walker – Harlequins (3 caps)
The name Theo Dan jumps out here, the 22-year-old Premiership-winner has just one season of top-flight rugby under his belt but caught many people’s eye for his mercurial performances. Elsewhere, Harlequins’ Jack Walker also raises some eyebrows, himself and Dan beating the experienced British and Irish Lion, Luke Cowan-Dickie to a place in the squad.
- Maro Itoje – Saracens (67 caps)
- David Ribbans – Toulon (6 caps)
- George Martin – Leicester Tigers (2 caps)
- Ollie Chessum – Leicester Tigers (9 caps)
Borthwick elects to swing the knife on Sale’s Jonny Hill, bringing to question who will partner stalwart Maro Itoje in ‘the boiler room’. Many fans want to see Courtney Lawes return to lock, a position he hasn’t played for years after moving to blindside flanker, Borthwick’s selection of just four locks suggests this may be possible.
- Tom Curry – Sale Sharks (45 caps)
- Ben Earl – Saracens (15 caps)
- Lewis Ludlam – Northampton Saints (20 caps)
- Courtney Lawes – Northampton Saints (97 caps)
- Jack Willis – Toulouse (10 caps)
- Billy Vunipola – Saracens (68 caps)
The most hotly debated area of the squad. Borthwick is forced into making some cut-throat decisions and leaves out some exciting names including Tom Pearson, Zach Mercer, Alex Dombrandt and Tom Willis. Billy Vunipola is named as the only ‘out-and-out’ number eight, suggesting that one or both of Earl and Ludlam will have time there.
- Ben Youngs – Leicester Tigers (122 caps)
- Danny Care – Harlequins (88 caps)
- Alex Mitchell – Northampton Saints (4 caps)
The surprise here is the re-call of Danny Care, the experienced Harlequin had not played for England since 2017 before Borthwick opted to bring him back into camp.
- Owen Farrell – Saracens (106 caps)
- George Ford – Sale Sharks (82 caps)
- Marcus Smith – Harlequins (22 caps)
The talking point here is Borthwick’s choice to take three number 10s, which is slightly untraditional but not surprising considering Owen Farrell’s pedigree at inside centre.
- Manu Tuilagi – Sale Sharks (51 caps)
- Ollie Lawrence – Bath Rugby (11 caps)
- Joe Marchant – Stade Francais (16 caps)
Borthwick again puts his faith in experience with the selection of Tuilagi, a stalwart of three previous Rugby World Cups and a try-scorer in the 2019 semi-final win over New Zealand.
- Henry Arundell – Racing 92 (7 caps)
- Max Malins – Bristol Bears (19 caps)
- Jonny May – Gloucester Rugby (72 caps)
- Joe Cokanasiga – Bath Rugby (14 caps)
- Freddie Steward – Leicester Tigers (23 caps)
Two crushing blows for England as Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly pull out the tournament late after being named in the initial squad forced Borthwick to replace them with the experienced May and Cokanasiga, both of whom travelled to Japan.
Key players – Ellis Genge and Owen Farrell
Still a raw and unpolished diamond in 2019, Genge has matured into a truly exceptional loosehead prop and leader. If England are to go far, they will need Genge to put his hand up in key moments, whether it be making a key carry, tackle or winning a scum penalty.
Meanwhile, after the devastating World Cup final loss in 2019 and Saracens stint in the English Championship, many had doubts that Farrell was still up to the top level of the test game, where he has resided for so many years. This season ‘Faz’ emphatically crushed these doubts with an imperious season in the hot seat for Saracens.
Key absentees – Zach Mercer and Anthony Watson
The powerful and skilful number eight Zach Mercer amassed a measly 2 caps under Eddie Jones during his time at Bath, before jetting off to the sunny shores of Montpellier. After making the decision to return to England this season, many were surprised to still see him discarded by Steve Borthwick.
Regarded by many as England’s best winger, the two-time British and Irish Lion Anthony Watson has been a star on the international circuit since his debut in 2014, scoring a staggering 23 tries in 52 games. The loss of Watson, through a calf injury, will mean England lose a lot of much-needed potency out wide, where try-scoring has been a consistent and debilitating issue.
England’s form ahead of the World Cup
A shaky Six Nations debut for coach Steve Borwick left England with just two wins from five. What was more disappointing than the results was the lacklustre performances, compounded by an embarrassing 10-53 loss to France at Twickenham.
Many themes from the Six Nations were consistent through their final warm-up games. An impotent attack, stuttering set-piece and inconsistent team selections contributing to disappointing losses to Wales and Ireland.
Last five matches:
- Ireland 29-10 England
- England 19-17 Wales
- Wales 20-9 England
- Ireland 29-16 England
- England 10-53 France
The team’s odds at World Cup 2023 – 14/1 (15.00)
The shaky form and poor results from Six Nations clearly put England behind a few leading favourites, which is evident if we look at the odds for England to win the World Cup at around 14/1 (15.00).
England’s World Cup group and schedule
The British and Irish Lions will play in Group D at the World Cup in France, along with Argentina, Samoa, Japan, and Chile. The team’s schedule is as follows:
- 09/09/2023 at 20:00 GMT vs Argentina
- 17/09/2023 at 20:00 GMT vs Japan
- 23/09/2023 at 16:45 GMT vs Chile
- 07/10/2023 at 16:45 GMT vs Samoa
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