England head coach Steve Borthwick’s first step after the record 53-10 trashing by France was to rejig his squad for the final-round Six Nations match in Ireland this Saturday.

Bath centre Ollie Lawrence is out with a hamstring injury, so Leicester’s Guy Porter is reintroduced.

Other swaps see Harlequins’ tighthead prop Will Collier come in for Joe Heyes, Sale lock Jonny Hill replace the injured Courtney Lawes, and London Irish wing Ollie Hassell-Collins returning as an extra back with Exeter No 8 Sam Simmonds dropping out.

Is it now just a case of damage limitation for England, or can they still dream of an upset win over the Grand Slam-chasing Irish?

More from Rugby Union

Position by position, we look at Borthwick’s dilemmas in Dublin…

Full-back

Freddie Steward contributed England’s solitary try against the French, on a hard line in the 48th minute, and kept at it, but Henry Arundell needs game-time if he is a World Cup candidate.

Right wing

Arundell or Steward could slot in here if England need more power than they get from Max Malins.

Eddie Jones is right – blow up English rugby

By Kevin Garside, i‘s chief sports correspondent

Beware the wounded beast says Andy Farrell ahead of Sunday’s visit of England. That assumes there is potency in the predator. Has Ireland’s coach not been watching? Comprehensive defeats to Scotland and France erased any sense of optimism that may have lingered from the scratchy wins against Italy and Wales.

Saturday’s evisceration against France at Twickenham, a record defeat at HQ, demonstrated how far the English have fallen. Mentally feeble and physically inadequate was the damning conclusion of former England coach Sir Clive Woodward, and this a man who found reasons to be positive even in the dying embers of Eddie Jones’ reign.

Read Kevin’s piece in full here

Outside centre

Henry Slade’s sporadic reluctance to pass outside is bucking the trend of Ireland and others who are keen to hit “the edge”. But the left-footed Exeter Chief has long experience of Dublin. The alternatives are Joe Marchant, Manu Tuilagi and Guy Porter.

Inside centre

In the aftermath of the French rout, there was much talk of missing power, and Tuilagi’s name resurfaced, now his disciplinary ban is up. But hadn’t we begun to believe in a post-Tuilagi era, because he will never rediscover his best – for example, England’s win in Dublin in 2019? We need to be flies on the wall in training, to know for certain.

Left wing

Cadan Murley or Ollie Hassell-Collins would represent a big gamble to attack the Irish and defend the excellent Mack Hansen. It has to be Anthony Watson, a class player.

Fly-half

Cards on the table time. If Marcus Smith can carry England forward in the biggest matches, then keep starting him. If George Ford is Borthwick’s man, we need to be told. If it is horses for courses, as Borthwick has indicated, this tricky trip may call for Owen Farrell. (And, by the way, doesn’t it seem ages since Leinster and Ireland were in torture over their domination by Farrell’s Saracens and England?)

England's Marcus Smith, left, talks with his teammate Max Malins during the Six Nations rugby union international match between England and France, at Twickenham Stadium in London, England, Saturday, March 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Marcus Smith started ahead of Owen Farrell against France (Photo: AP)

Scrum-half

Have we moved on from Ben Youngs or not? If yes, stick with Jack van Poortvliet and Alex Mitchell, on the theory of building experience, even if it hurts. Sale’s Raffi Quirke is a fighter but not in the squad.

Loosehead prop

Gloucester’s Val Rapava Ruskin has not convinced Borthwick of his mettle, so it’s Ellis Genge plus one from Mako Vunipola and Bevan Rodd. This is a great chance to see if Sale Sharks’ Rodd can cope.

Hooker

Luke Cowan-Dickie has been among the long-term injured – more of which in a moment – so it’s Jamie George plus one of Jack Walker and Tom Dunn, men with similar builds and skills to each other. Stick with Walker.

Tighthead prop

Harlequins’ Will Collier has two England caps and a multitude of supporters of his scrummaging at Premiership level. Dan Cole looked lost in loose play against the French, so let’s make the huge call to bring Collier in, as back-up to Kyle Sinckler.

Left-hand lock

Just when you thought Maro Itoje was waning against the French he produced a tackle or a carry. Has to stay.

Right-hand lock

This is where philosophy clashes with expediency. Ollie Chessum offers an all-court game as Borthwick strives for greater ruck speed. But Jonny Hill has the lumpen presence to keep Ireland honest in the set-piece. Looking at the way rugby is rugby going, stick with Chessum.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Ollie Chessum of England looks dejected with teammates after their teams defeat during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby match between England and France at Twickenham Stadium on March 11, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)
Stick with Ollie Chessum, says Hugh Godwin (Photo: Getty)

Blindside flanker

Injuries to Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry and, previously, Sam Underhill have ripped the heart out of England’s 2019 World Cup final back five; Curry had been in world-class form this season. England may need Nick Isiekwe’s bulk this week.

Openside flanker

England cannot get cleaned out on the deck again, although this failing is more about the team than any individual. Jack Willis edges it over Ben Earl as they face some of the world’s best for a second week running.

No 8

The image of Alex Dombrandt toiling in the wake of French flyer Damian Penaud sticks in the memory, even if the Harlequin’s handling and kick-chasing have been decent in this Six Nations. With Sam Simmonds dropped, and no sign of Billy Vunipola, the other possibility is Lewis Ludlam switching across.

Hugh Godwin’s England XV to face Ireland

  • 15 Freddie Steward
  • 14 Henry Arundell
  • 13 Henry Slade
  • 12 Manu Tuilagi
  • 11 Anthony Watson
  • 10 Marcus Smith
  • 9 Alex Mitchell
  • 1 Ellis Genge
  • 2 Jamie George
  • 3 Kyle Sinckler
  • 4 Maro Itoje
  • 5 Ollie Chessum
  • 6 Nick Isiekwe
  • 7 Jack Willis
  • 8 Lewis Ludlam

Replacements:

  • 16 Jack Walker
  • 17 Bevan Rodd
  • 18 Will Collier
  • 19 Jonny Hill
  • 20 Ben Earl
  • 21 Jack van Poortvliet
  • 22 Owen Farrell
  • 23 Max Malins

By admin