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Marcus over Fin, no messing around: Five takeaways following England’s early squad announcement

In a Warren Gatland-esq move, Steve Borthwick has announced his England squad to face Japan this weekend, with the headlines dominated by the selection of Marcus Smith.

The Quins ace was in-line to start during the Six Nations until a calf injury ruled him out of the early rounds, however it now appears he will lead an exciting England attack.

In the backline, George Furbank starts at fullback, with Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and Tommy Freeman named on the wings. Henry Slade and Ollie Lawrence continue their blossoming midfield partnership, with Alex Mitchell joining Smith in the halves.

Bevan Rodd and Dan Cole start alongside captain Jamie George in the front-row, with Maro Itoje and George Martin named as locks. Rounding off the team, Chandler Cunningham-South joins Sam Underhill and Ben Earl in the back-row.

READ MORE: Barbarians: Full squad confirmed with two more English players added

Borthwick has also named an incredibly strong bench, with Tom Roebuck in line for his test debut as a replacement.

But what can we takeaway from this early squad selection? Here are our thoughts

Five takeaways following England’s early squad announcement

Attacking intent

Immanuel Feyi-Waboso for England-Credit: IMAGO

The selection of Mitchell and M. Smith at 9 and 10 respectively really highlights the attacking intent of this England side. Both players love to play with quick-ball, which will cause plenty of problems for the Japanese defence.

They both really love taking the defence on too, and are capable of some sublime line breaks, but have both added solid distribution to their games too.

Smith, in particular, also has a keen eye for space, which should bring the best out of Lawrence too in midfield, as he will play a similar style to Finn Russell at Bath.

The wingers again highlight their new ball-in-hand approach. Feyi-Waboso and Freeman are fantastic ball-carrying wingers who can generate momentum for an attack.

Feyi-Waboso and Freeman have a lovely blend of raw power and speed, which helps them get over the gain-line. George Furbank sat behind at fullback is also a nice indication of the attacking intent, as he acts as that extra link to the wingers.

No messing around from England

England celebrate victory over Ireland-Credit: IMAGO

Whilst nobody expected Borthwick to just throw caps around for fun, he has gone full chest with his selection.

Resisting the urge to start Theo Dan and Charlie Ewels, or even naming Fin Baxter, Gabe Oghre or Joe Hayes into the 23, highlights this test is a good chance to properly build continuity throughout his chose 23-man-squad before the opening test against New Zealand.

Furthermore, this will likely be the same squad for the New Zealand tests (injuries dependent.)

Could it also be down to Borthwick wanting to get one over his old master Eddie Jones?


Eddie Jones and Steve Borthwick coaching England-Credit: IMAGO

As briefly touched on it the opening, naming the team this early is textbook Warren Gatland, however it shows England are taking the upper hand.

Naming the squad four days before the game, rather than the typical two, proves England have nothing to hide ahead of the game, and want to lay all their cards on the table.

It also puts a stop to any potential Eddie Jones mind games in the build-up too, which is always a good thing for a team facing him.

Breakdown threat key to defence

England disrupt breakdown vs France-Credit: IMAGO

Whilst a lot of the focus will be on the attack, the selection of Bevan Rodd proves England are going to target the breakdown this weekend. In Sale colours, Rodd has been utilised as an extra back-rower.

His speed and size make him a genuine menace in this area, and he has quickly become one of the best in the Premiership at it.

Rodd’s selection also compliments the work that Sam Underhill and Ben Earl will do in the breakdown, giving England three genuine jackal threats. It also gives Cunningham-South more of a license to focus on tackling too, which is a real strong point for him.

Japan are a team who need quick ball to get going, but if England can disrupt this it could steer them to victory.

England posses power up front

Chandler Cunningham-South powers through a tackle-Credit: IMAGO

England have lacked a genuine ball-carries in the tight for some time now, however this team seems to have ‘brought back the biff’. Cunningham-South is an expert operator in the close quarters, and has proved time and time again for Harlequins he can drag his team over the gain line on a consistent basis.

Elsewhere, Sam Underhill has really improved his ball-carrying skills, and showed in the Premiership final he can barrel his way through defences. Maro Itoje and George Martin can also chip in with some huge carries too.

Add this all in with the prowess of Ben Earl in broken field and you have a threatening pack to say the least.

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