"No Underhill or Mercer" on Steve Borthwick's England standby list - Ruck

“No Underhill or Mercer” on Steve Borthwick’s England standby list

Who will England head coach Steve Borthwick summon if injuries happen in France during the 2023 Rugby World Cup?

The England head coach named his 33-man squad for the showpiece event on Monday with Alex Dombrandt and Henry Slade being the two most notable omissions.

Below, we pick a XV of players likely to be on standby.

#15. Cadan Murley (Harlequins)

We start off with a player out of position. With plenty of fullback cover already in the squad, you would presume that if Freddie Steward got injured, then Henry Arundell or Marcus Smithwould be shifted to fullback, with another winger called up. Speedster Murley, who was the fastest England back during the training camp, would surely be the next player off the bench to cover the back-three positions.

#14. Ollie Hassell-Collins (Leicester Tigers)

#13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)

The biggest shock of the squad announcement, Slade would surely be the only choice for Borthwick should a centre be ruled out. Numerous pundits, including Sir Clive Woodward, are of the opinion that he should have been included from the outset.

Henry Slade during the England Rugby Training Sessions at The Lensbury Hotel, Teddington, London on 3 July 2023 (Photo: George Beck/PPAUK)

#12. Guy Porter (Leicester Tigers)

Both Borthwick and his predecessor Jones evidently hold a favourable opinion of the Tigers’ center. While Porter has not yet delivered a standout performance for England, he proved to be a dependable lieutenant for Borthwick during the latter’s time as the head of Leicester.

#11. Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby)

Arguably the most unpredictable choice among the back-three alternatives, Cokanasiga did not manage to make a strong impression against Wales. However, at his peak performance, he has drawn comparisons to the legendary Jonah Lomu for his combination of speed, size, and ball-carrying power.

Joe Cokanasiga of England on the break during the Summer Nations Series Rugby match between Wales and England at Principality Stadium on August 5, 2023 in Cardiff, Wales. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK