England have certainly entered a new era following the 2023 Rugby World Cup, with this no more apparent than in the re-introduction of the England A side. Historically known as England Saxons, the development team is taking on Portugal in February 2024.
Coming at a busy time in both England and Portugal’s schedule, the fixture has been booked in for Sunday February 24th, and will be hosted at Leicester Tigers’ Welford Road. The match in the middle of the 2024 Six Nations and Rugby Europe Championship, takes place the day after England’s match against Scotland at BT Murrayfield Stadium.
The England A side presents an opportunity for the most aspiring young players, and those on the senior team fringes in the Six Nations wider training squad. In a statement on the England Rugby website, RFU Executive Director of Performance Rugby Conor O’Shea said; “It brings us great excitement to be renewing our A side in 2024.”
“Historically it has been a platform for some of the country’s next best players to showcase their talent whilst representing England.
“Portugal demonstrated their capabilities as a rugby nation on the world stage in recent months with their attacking flair and passion – we can’t wait for more of that in the New Year. They are a team possessing many bright stars for the future and are a befitting opponent for our A squad.
“England Rugby wants to be part of providing game time and mutual collaboration for emerging nations such as Portugal, who have a great deal to offer to the game and I’m sure both they and our A side will gain a lot from February’s match. This builds on partnerships we have with other emerging nations and are looking to develop further links with other emerging unions.”
Here are RUCK’s Predictions, for the England A side that will take on Portugal on February 24th 2024.
15. Josh Hodge (Exeter Chiefs)
14. Cadan Murley (Harlequins)
11. Adam Radwan (Newcastle Falcons)
We’ve predicted a high-octane back-three to start against Portugal, to set an exhilarating tempo along the touch-lines. After ending the 2022/23 Premiership season as the top try-scorer (with 15 tries), Harlequins’ speedster Cadan Murley is ticking all the boxes for his long-awaited England call-up. Borthwick has previously included Murley in his wider training squads, but has not yet awarded the winger his test match debut.
We’ve predicted Adam Radwan to partner Murley along the wings, as the Newcastle Falcons man has been in flying form up in the North East. Radwan is already off the mark for the new season with a try against Gloucester, and is eyeing a return to an England jersey having been overlooked in recent years. Radwan’s England debut came in the Summer of 2021 against Canada, with his second and final cap so far coming the following Autumn against Fiji.
We’ve pinned electric Exeter fullback Josh Hodge for our predicted 15 jersey, with Borthwick more than likely already spying the talented 23-year-old. Hodge flew out of the gate for the 2023/24 season, scoring six tries in his first four matches of the season. Hodge contributed an awesome hat-trick against Saracens, as the Chiefs handed the reigning Champions their heaviest ever Premiership defeat last month at Sandy Park (65-10).
13. Guy Porter (Leicester Tigers)
12. Seb Atkinson (Gloucester Rugby)
Guy Porter was called up into the wider England training group for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, yet was let back to Welford Road as Borthwick thinned out his squad. Porter made his sixth test cap in the Summer, but was released after England suffered a 20-9 defeat to Wales in Cardiff. Porter is certainly going to push for more minutes in the 2024 Six Nations, with this mid-competition test presenting a golden opportunity to showcase his talents.
With Joe Marchant off to Stade Francais, the former Harlequin ends his tenure in the England midfield. Manu Tuilagi’s immediate future is also unconfirmed, with a power struggle set to in-sue. Exeter’s Henry Slade has returned to top form, and could well return to Borthwick’s squad for the Six Nations. We can see Slade getting the nod, with Gloucester’s Seb Atkinson on the fringes for this England A squad. Atkinson has been turning heads in the Premiership, due to his expert playmaking from the 12 channel.