'Two Debuts Incoming' - 5 Talking Points: Steve Borthwick England Squad Announcement for All Blacks First Test - Ruck

‘Two Debuts Incoming’ – 5 Talking Points: Steve Borthwick England Squad Announcement for All Blacks First Test

England head coach Steve Borthwick has named his squad to take on the All Blacks, for the first Test of the two-match series. England and New Zealand collide in Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium this Saturday, with the closed-roof home of the Highlanders set to encase an eclectic mix of on-field talent.

Borthwick spoke to the reporting media today, after naming his squad to take on the All Blacks for the first Test. A bonus talking point to come from the conversation with the England head coach, was that there has been no direct communication as of yet, with the players regarding a ‘response’ to the pre-match haka. In 2019, the Rugby World Cup semi-final saw England form the now famous ‘V’ ahead of the match, with Owen Farrell’s smirking face etched in the rivalry folklore.

“We will respect the great tradition of international rugby and as ever it will be the players who make those decisions because they are the ones on the grass.” Borthwick said, when asked about if any pre-match plans had been made to respond to the haka in Dunedin.

“As ever since we have been in Japan and since we arrived here in New Zealand we will be tremendously respectful of their tradition, but that will be conversation I have with Jamie (george) later in the week.”



Joe Marler of England during the Six Nations Match between England and Wales at Twickenham, London on 10 February 2024 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

Steve Borthwick has made just two changes to his squad that beat Japan, to which will now be taking on the All Blacks this Saturday. The duo of new starters both come in the front row, as the loose-head and tight-head props get shaken up for the battle with New Zealand. Joe Marler comes in to start ahead of Bevan Rodd, with the Sale Sharks man out of the match day 23. Also, Will Stuart is preferred to start in the three jersey ahead of Dan Cole.

STEVE BORTHWICK: “Joe and Dan are exceptional players and are also incredibly influential on the players around them. And there are times they’ll play together and there will be times on the pitch as happened in the Japan game where they play alongside each other.

“I also think it’s great that the influence they have on the younger players in the squad and having that ability to have experience at the start and experience at the end of the game. Because to get the result you want, you need an 80-minute performance.”

Will Stuart 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

“I think that if you look at the loosehead side, in particular, Joe continues to be superb and still eager to develop his game and I think that’s an important thing. Players wanted to keep improving. Joe wants to do that. Clearly Ellis (Genge) is unavailable to us in this series. He’s been sending me his watt bike sessions and challenging me to do them and try and get his scores.

“So I think he is in pretty good shape back in England. And we’ve got Fin (Baxter) and Bevan (Rodd) so I think we’ve got some good players in that part of the team.”


Fin Baxter of Harlequins before the Gallahgher Premiership match between Saracens and Harlequins at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London on 25 March 2023 (Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK)

The England head coach has named two potential debutants for the All Blacks match, in what could be a baptism of fire for the new-coming talents. Harlequins loose-head prop Fin Baxter and Northampton Saints’ flying wing Ollie Sleightholme both get the go-ahead, and take their respective seats amongst the replacements for off the bench involvements.

STEVE BORTHWICK: “Both have spent some time in the squad and have an understanding of what we’re trying to do as a team given neither were part of the World Cup squad or the Six Nations squad. So having had extra time getting used to the systems and looking at the way they have played all season. Ollie’s ability to try to find the try-line and the pace he brings into the team.

Ollie Sleightholme of Northampton Saints on the break hands off Cameron Redpath of Bath Rugby during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final Match between Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby at Twickenham Stadium on 8 June 2024. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

“Fin’s ability to scrum against some very big packs in European rugby and this New Zealand team is a very big and really well drilled pack. So it’s a great contest. I’m looking forward to seeing how these young players go. I think they’re going to be big parts of the England team for many years to come.”

“I think then the scrum is clearly central, it’s the first thing you’ll look up for any prop forward. When you start also looking at his movement outside of the set-piece, he moves really well. I will ring people like Joe Marler and Dan Cole and get their opinion of people they are playing against. And with Joe obviously knowing Fin at the club, and get their view and both of them speak really positively.”