Anthony Watson will make his first England start in almost two years after replacing Ollie Hassell-Collins in the team for this Saturday’s Six Nations 2023 fixture against Wales.
There are two changes to the bench with the back five cover overhaul receiving a significant overhaul.
Courtney Lawes is present in an England matchday 23 for the first time since leading the July tour to Australia, coming in for Nick Isiekwe, while Ben Curry displaces Ben Earl.
Leicester Tigers star Watson comes into the side on the left wing after London Irish rookie Hassell-Collins sustained a knee injury in training after the round two win over Italy.
An impressive replacement appearance against Scotland at the start of this year’s championship was Watson’s maiden red rose outing since starting against Ireland in March 2021, although he played two Tests for the Lions that same year.
The 28-year-old recovered from a serious knee injury to launch his Leicester career in October but has been limited to 11 outings for his new club because of other niggles.
England team vs Wales, Six Nations 2023
- 15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 19 caps)
- 14. Max Malins (Saracens, 16 caps)
- 13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 53 caps)
- 12. Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby, 9 caps)
- 11. Anthony Watson (Leicester Tigers, 52 caps)
- 10. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 103 caps) (C)
- 9. Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers, 9 caps)
- 1. Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears, 45 caps) (VC)
- 2. Jamie George (Saracens, 74 caps)
- 3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 58 caps)
- 4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 64 caps)
- 5. Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, 7 caps)
- 6. Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 16 caps)
- 7. Jack Willis (Toulouse, 7 caps)
- 8. Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 11 caps)
- 16. Jack Walker (Harlequins, 1 cap)
- 17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 76 caps)
- 18. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 97 caps)
- 19. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 96 caps) (VC)
- 20. Ben Curry (Sale Sharks, 2 caps)
- 21. Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, 2 caps)
- 22. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 19 caps)
- 23. Henry Arundell (London Irish, 4 caps)
Borthwick said: “Wales v England in Cardiff is one of the iconic rugby fixtures, steeped in history and always full of passion.
“We know the Principality Stadium crowd will be in full voice and we will have to be at our very best to repeat the success we had in the last round against Italy.
“I have selected a team that I think has the right players and balance to meet the particular challenges we will face this weekend.
“I am delighted to have welcomed Courtney Lawes back to the squad after injury. His quality and experience has contributed to a focused training week, marked by the sort of competition and intensity we expect.
“I could not have asked any more from all the players and there is no doubt that they can’t wait to be a part of this special occasion.”
Biggar and North dropped as Wales make nine changes
Fly-half Dan Biggar and centre George North have been left out of the Wales team for the clash in Cardiff as Warren Gatland makes nine changes to his side.
The cap centurions are replaced by Ospreys’ Owen Williams and uncapped 20-year-old Cardiff centre Mason Grady, respectively.
Williams makes a first start in the Wales No 10 shirt after previous appearances at centre, with Grady partnered in midfield by Joe Hawkins.
Biggar skippered Wales during last season’s Six Nations and the summer tour of South Africa, but he delivered a below-par performance during Wales’ record 35-7 defeat against Scotland 12 days ago.
Elsewhere, head coach Gatland has handed full-back Leigh Halfpenny his 98th cap – but a first Wales start since he suffered a serious knee injury in July 2021 – with Liam Williams omitted.
Wing Louis Rees-Zammit, prop Gareth Thomas and Lions forwards Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau also feature among the returnees.
L Halfpenny (Scarlets); J Adams (Cardiff), M Grady (Cardiff), J Hawkins (Ospreys), L Rees-Zammit (Gloucester); O Williams (Ospreys), T Williams (Cardiff); G Thomas (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets, capt), T Francis (Ospreys), A Beard (Ospreys), A W Jones (Ospreys), C Tshiunza (Exeter), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Faletau (Cardiff).
Replacements: B Roberts (Dragons), R Carre (Cardiff), D Lewis (Cardiff), D Jenkins (Exeter), T Reffell (Leicester), K Hardy (Scarlets), D Biggar (Toulon), N Tompkins (Saracens)
Williams and North both fail to make Gatland’s matchday 23, with Biggar, Scarlets scrum-half Kieran Hardy and Saracens centre Nick Tompkins providing back division cover.
At 6ft 5in and more than 17 stones, Grady offers a similar physical presence to North and he has landed his Test match chance after just 20 first-team appearances for Cardiff.
Gloucester wing Rees-Zammit features for the first time in this season’s Six Nations after recovering from an ankle injury while Jones wins his 157th cap, replacing Exeter forward Dafydd Jenkins.
The players omitted after Murrayfield are Liam Williams, North, Biggar, Jenkins, Rio Dyer, Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Tommy Reffell and Jac Morgan.
With the game going ahead after strike action by Wales players was averted on Wednesday, Gatland’s team will aim to avoid suffering three successive defeats from the start of a Six Nations campaign for the first time since 2003.
Wales, though, will be encouraged by winning five of their last seven fixtures against England in Cardiff.
Gatland said: “We’ve given Mason Grady a first cap. He is a big lad, he has got some really lovely rugby skills and off-loading ability.
“He is quick, so he is the kind of centre that I think is going to have it all going forward.
“The message to the players has been, ‘let’s draw a line in the sand in terms of what has been going on and focus completely on the rugby’.
“For both teams this is a massive game because we win on Saturday and we can get things on track a little bit more.”
Additional reporting by Press Association