England head coach Steve Borthwick has named five uncapped players in his match day 23, to take on Italy tomorrow afternoon in Rome. The Six Nations has often been a golden opportunity for England hopefuls to make their test match debut, and this weekend’s opening round proves to be no different.
With the 2024 Six Nations marking the start of the new Rugby World Cup cycle, we are officially on the road to Australia 2027, and Borthwick will be looking through his promising young talents to make an early name for themselves. Borthwick initially called up seven uncapped players into his wider training squad, and later added a further two in Max Ojomoh and Will Muir from Bath.
Harlequins’ Oscar Beard and Sale Sharks wing Tom Roebuck miss out on a test match call-up, but we will see the England debuts of back row Ethan Roots (Exeter Chiefs) and inside centre Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints), as they are set to start against Italy. On the bench, Chandler Cunningham-South (Harlequins), Fin Smith (Northampton Saints) and Immanuel Feyi-Waboso (Exeter Chiefs) are all primed and ready to make their England debuts as well.
But what happened to the five latest players to make their England debuts in the Six Nations? Did they remain a feature of the squad, or have they since drifted off to the wayside and will miss out on the upcoming tournament, Here are the last five England players, to make their test match debuts in the Six Nations.
1. Jack Walker – DEBUT: England 31-14 Italy – 2023 Six Nations
Harlequins hooker Jack Walker had to bide his time for a senior England call-up, despite being an impressive breakout player of the England U20s set-up. Walker captained the England age group side through the 2016 U20 Six Nations, and led the team to glory in the same year’s U20 World Championships. After graduating the age grade system Walker signed with Bath, and after subsequent loans to London Scottish, he was picked up by Harlequins in 2021.
It was at the Stoop where Walker began to gain serious traction for an England call-up. He was brought into Eddie Jones’ wider training squad in 2022, but was later released back to his club ahead of the Six Nations. It took a changing of the management to hand Walker his debut, as Steve Borthwick brought the hooker in to camp the following year, and awarded him with an England debut at Twickenham against Italy. Walker was named on the bench in all five of England’s 2023 Six Nations matches, but only accrued a total of 28 minutes of game-time.
The Harlequin struggled to get past Jamie George for starting contention, and had further push backs when Saracen young gun Theo Dan was introduced to the squad. Walker was selected in the 2023 Rugby World Cup squad, yet only played in England’s pool stage walkover win against Chile, in a 26 minute replacement appearence. Walker has been left out of the fold for the 2024 Six Nations, with Jamie Blamire preferred to replace the injured Luke Cowan-Dickie amongst the hookers.
2. Ollie Hassell-Collins – DEBUT: England 23 – 29 Scotland – 2023 Six Nations
Similarly to Jack Walker, Ollie Hassell-Collins made his England debut in last year’s Six Nations Championships, but has since fallen out of the fold for this season’s competition. Hassell-Collins had been on the England radar since June 2021, when Eddie Jones called the winger into the fray, ahead of the team’s Summer internationals against the United States and Canada.
With the British & Irish Lions away in South Africa, it was a surprise to see Hassell-Collins unused for the England tests against the two North American sides. The former London Irishman remained in fine form with the Exiles, and was recalled to the squad by Jones for the 2022 Six Nations. Yet once again, ‘OHC’ was unable to get onto the pitch, and had to wait for third time to be the charm, under the new rein of Steve Borthwick. Hassell-Collins was at his recent peak ahead of last year’s Six Nations, and started England’s opening round defeat to Scotland at Twickenham.
The wing would then start in England’s aforementioned win against Italy, but was promptly dropped by Borthwick for the rest of the tournament. Hassell-Collins was also released mid-way through England’s Summer preparations for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and played no part in the bronze-medal campaign. Now at Leicester Tigers, Hassell-Collins remains in strong form, and with 10 tries this season (in all competitions) he is forming a good case for future England inclusions.