STATEMENT: England boss Steve Borthwick explains his shock axing of centre Henry Slade - Ruck

STATEMENT: England boss Steve Borthwick explains his shock axing of centre Henry Slade

On Monday’s announcement of the England squad of 33 players for the upcoming Rugby World Cup in France, one notable omission that grabbed the headlines was Henry Slade.

Shortly after the squad was named, Steve Borthwick was requested to provide an explanation for his selection choices.

“There were a number of difficult decisions as you have to take the squad down to 33 players and we have a lot of talented players in the squad,” he began. “So by that nature, quality players miss out on the 33.

“Henry has been excellent throughout the training camp. He is clearly disappointed. The message to the players that have not been selected is to be ready to come into the squad. We know that there will be changes.

“The last World Cup shows that with bumps and bruises, the average is nearly two players a squad in the last number of tournaments (are changed), so what I have asked every player who hasn’t been selected is to be ready to go.

On axing Slade he confirmed the reports yesterday that Joe Marchant made the squad ahead of Slade based on his versatility: “Now there are good players competing for each of these decisions and I have said this many times, I decided you will have three players in the key positions, across front row, scrum-half, fly-half for the obvious reasons.

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

“What that means is that in other areas of the team, you need to have positional flexibility, you need to make some compromise. That is always in the balance in the selection process.

England captain Owen Farrell, who shared a room with Slade the last four weeks, admitted he hadn’t spoke to his teammate over the axing.

 “I have not spoke to him yet,” said Farrell.

“I shared a room with Henry for the past four weeks so I definitely will be in touch with him.

“But listen, there is a lot of good boys in the squad, there is a lot of competition, a lot of competitiveness day in, day out so I think we have got and great squad and people will need to be used over the course of this next 12 weeks.

“It is not going to stay the same, people need to stay ready, people need to make sure that they are ready if anything happens and them boys that have just missed out have been a big part in this preparation.”

Alex Dombrandt and Henry Slade among nine England players released by Steve Borthwick

Owen Farrell will captain England in his third Rugby World Cup with Ellis Genge and Courtney Lawes named as vice captains.

The 2023 England World Cup squad is made up of 19 forwards and 14 backs, totals over 1,400 England appearances, with an average age of 27. 17 players have previous Rugby World Cup experience.

Head coach Steve Borthwick has left out a number of big names, including Alex Dombrandt and Henry Slade.

Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons)

Hooker Jamie Blamire has been part of the England set-up at both Under 18 and Under 20 level before his progress to the senior squad.

The Newcastle Falcons front row helped the Under 20 side to a Grand Slam in 2017 and reached the final of the of the World Rugby U20 Championship later that year. Hailing from Cumbria, he played for Tynedale before he joined the Falcons’ academy and made his debut for the club in 2017. He was named Newcastle’s academy player of the year in the 2018. Blamire received his first call-up to England’s senior squad in the summer of 2021.

Jamie Blamire of England 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

Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins)

England fans will remember Alex Dombrandt from his outstanding performance in the Quilter Cup game against the Barbarians at Twickenham.

Making a first outing for the England XV side, he crossed the whitewash twice in a Man of the Match performance where his powerful ball carrying and deft off-loading skills were on show. Dombrandt made his Test debut against Canada in July 2021. In 2022, Dombrandt scored a try in England’s 23-19 win over Wales at Twickenham in the Six Nations. He was included in Steve Borthwick’s 36-player squad for the 2023 edition of the tournament.

Alex Dombrandt of England during the Six Nations Match between England and Italy at Twickenham, London on 12 Feb 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)