"Clean slate" - Sir Clive Woodward selects five players who MUST start for England - Ruck

“Clean slate” – Sir Clive Woodward selects five players who MUST start for England

In an exclusive for Mail Online, Sir Clive Woodward highlights five essential players who should be in the starting lineup for England in the upcoming 2024 Six Nations.

Number eight Billy Vunipola and prop Kyle Sinckler were among the notable omissions by head coach Steve Borthwick.

Centre Henry Slade and hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, who both missed out on the Rugby World Cup, are recalled. 

Exeter Chiefs wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, born and brought up in Cardiff, is among seven uncapped players in the squad.

Chandler Cunningham-South, Ethan Roots, Oscar Beard, Fraser Dingwall, Tom Roebuck and Fin Smith are the others who have yet to play for England.

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1. Marcus Smith (Harlequins)

Marcus became the second-youngest Premiership debutant in history, behind George Ford, when making his Harlequins bow against London Irish aged 18 years and 200 days in September 2017. The fly-half made 28 appearances for Harlequins in all competitions during the 2017/18 season, scoring three tries on his way to 208 points.

He was named as an apprentice in the England party for the Old Mutual Wealth series that autumn and continued in that role during the 2018 Six Nations. He made his Test debut in 2021 against the USA and contributed 13 points, including a try, to their 43-19 victory.

Marcus Smith of England during the Summer Nations Series Match between England and Wales at Twickenham, London on 12 Aug 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

In 2021 he was called up to the British & Irish Lions squad and kicked all seven conversions in their game against the Stormers. Recently, Smith was named in Steve Borthwick’s squad for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France before retaining his place for the 2024 Six Nations.

Woodward wrote: “He should be given an extended chance to run the show and the freedom to play his way. Owen Farrell is out of the picture so it’s a clean slate.”