4. Maro Itoje (Saracens)
5. Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers)
There were two polarising selection decisions for the four and five jersey, with one spot being a straight-forward choice whilst the other came down to the finer margins. Maro Itoje is back playing some of his best rugby in an England shirt, and is a nailed on choice to start against Scotland. The Saracen excelled in attack and defence against Wales, be it at the breakdown, in the carry or enforcing his ‘no fly zone’ by dominating the air-space at line-out time.
Itoje’s finest moment came at 17 minutes, as he charged down the scampering Ioan llyod, brought the fly half to the deck before he could clear his lines, and stole the ball at the turnover on the Welsh 5m line. Stunning stuff from the man known as ‘The Pearl’, who has reminded England fans of his immense value in the engine room. After much deliberation, we predict Ollie Chessum to retain his spot in the starting line-up, despite a hit-and-miss run against Wales and the pressure of a returning George Martin.
The Leicester Tigers man will soon be joined by his Welford Road teammate at England camp, with Borthwick name-checking Martin as one of the players he’s hoping to see back in the squad before too long. For now, we’ve picked Martin amongst our replacements, with Borthwick possibly set to fire him into the match as an impact sub. Chessum’s sin-bin saw his stock drop slightly against Wales, and a following head injury assessment hindered his momentum in the win over Warren Gatland’s side. So, for the time being we predict the Itoje-Chessum partnership to continue, with martin replacing the sporadicly used Alex Coles on the England bench.
6. Chandler Cunningham-South (Harlequins)
7. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby)
8. Ben Earl (Saracens)
Finally, we predict the England back-row to remain two-thirds unchanged from the side that took on Wales last weekend at Twickenham. Should the available players all remain fit, then there are few better options than Ben Earl to round off the back of the scrum at number eight. The Saracen has been England’s best player so far this Six Nations, and scored a stunning solo try against Wales. Earl earned a rightfully deserved Player of the Match award, and remains the best option to take the eight jersey for Borthwick’s side when they travel to Scotland.
Similar words could be said for the open-side flank, as Sam Underhill’s relentless work rate in the back-row has seen his stock sky-rocket in recent weeks. Going from overlooked World Cup option to leading name in a matter of months, Underhill has been laying in the fearsome tackles, with Kieron Assiratti in particular left on the receiving end of his textbook technique. Seen smiling with his teammates after he left the Welsh prop winded on the deck, Underhill embodies the Six Nations spirit, and Borthwick could go no better than to pick the Bath man for another bruising performance against Scotland.
The blindside flank is more of an area of contention, as after winning the Player of the Match award on his England debut, Ethan Roots had a less headline making match against Wales. A step down by his own standards, the New Zealand born flanker was sent to the sin bin for illegally halting a maul, and gifted Wales a penalty try in the process. He struggled to get a foothold in the match, with Chandler Cunningham-South once again maximising his minutes off the bench. The Harlequin has been folding his opponents in half, and has left a trail of bodies in his wake following powerful line breaks.
Borthwick named-dropped Chandler amongst the impressive replacements, who lifted the tempo against Wales. The former London Irishman could well be on his way to his first England senior start, with Murrayfield set to provide the perfect back-drop for him to first don the six jersey.
16. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Sale Sharks)
17. Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears)
18. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
19. George Martin (Leicester Tigers)
20. Chandler Cunningham-South (Harlequins)
21. Danny Care (Harlequins)
22. Fin Smith (Northampton Saints)
23. Tom Roebuck (Sale Sharks)