England boss Steve Borthwick will hand five players debuts against Wales - Ruck

England boss Steve Borthwick will hand five players debuts against Wales

Steve Borthwick has named his 41-man squad for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and has included five uncapped England hopefuls in the group.

The uncapped England stars have four matches to impress Borthwick, before the squad makes the short trip across the channel ahead of their Rugby World Cup campaign. England’s opening match of the competition is a Pool D clash with Argentina, kicking off their competition in Marseille on Saturday 9th September.

Steve Borthwick, Head Coach of England Rugby during the England Rugby Captains Run ahead of the Six Nations Match between Wales and England at Principality Stadium, London on 24 Feb 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

However, this Summer sees England play in four Rugby World Cup warm-up matches, to ease out any cracks before the pinnacle competition commences. Borthwick’s side have back-to-back matches against Wales, both in Cardiff and Twickenham, before heading to Dublin for a run-in with Ireland.

After England battle it out with the reigning Six Nations Grand Slam champions, they face a Fijian sized roadblock to finalise their preparations. The uncapped Northampton Saints duo of Fin Smith and Fraser Dingwall have since been released from the England squad, yet these five bolters may well receive their debut this Summer, and shake any first-time nerves ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Lets meet the new faces.

Get your tickets to the Rugby World Cup matches at viagogo, the world’s leading ticket marketplace. Find out how by clicking here.

Advertisement

1. Tom Willis

Try Celebrations for Tom Willis of Wasps as he scores the winning try during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Match between Wasps and Bristol Bears at Ricoh Arena on 22 November. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK/Gallagher

Joining his brother Jack in the England squad, back-rower Tom Willis is an exciting inclusion in Steve Borthwick’s plans. Soon to be heading back to the Premiership after agreeing a deal with Saracens, Willis returns to the top flight of English rugby after the financial collapse of Wasps last October.

The hard-hitting no-nonsense eight man commandeers the back of the pack, and formed a formidable back-row duo with his flanking brother at Wasps. Following their redundancy in Coventry, the Willis brothers both found new homes in the French Top 14, as Jack signed for 2023 champions Toulouse, and Tom joined Bordeaux-Begles.

Tom Willis of Wasps meets supporters after the Gallagher Premiership rugby match between London Irish and Wasps at The Brentford Community Stadium, Brentford, London on June 5 2021. – PHOTO: Micah Crook/PPAUK

Willis made 19 appearances for Bordeaux during the 2022/23 season, and quickly nailed his name to the number eight jersey. The 24-year-old scored three tries for the Southwestern France side, dotting down twice in the league and also once in the Heineken Champions Cup.

Thought by many pundits and fans alike to be Saracens’ forthcoming replacement to Billy Vunipola, Willis will be battling for his shirt as the Saracen now seems to be staying put at the StoneX Stadium for next season. Vunipola planted the seeds for a departure, after statements surrounding his uncertain future went viral from Jim Hamilton’s ‘Big Jim Show’ podcast.

Tom Willis of Wasps during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Gloucester Rugby and Wasps at Kingsholm Stadium on November 28, 2020 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by Tom Sandberg/PPAUK/Gallagher)

The recent retirement of certifiable club legend Jackson Wray opens up big boots to fill on the Sarries blindside flank, with Head Coach Mark McCall potentially eyeing up Willis’ versatility across the back-row for this role. Regardless of whether Willis wears the black six or eight shirt next season, he is a top-class addition to the Premiership champions squad.

He will be gaining valuable experience playing with his new teammates in the England squad, as Borthwick called up seven Saracens players into the Rugby World Cup squad today. Willis is joined by captain Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Jamie George, Elliot Daly, Max Malins, Ben Earl as well as newcomer Theo Dan (more on him shortly), in the reinforced England squad.

CONTINUES ON PAGE 2