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Predicting the England A squad to face Portugal

England A are back in action for the first time since 2016, and it looks to be an exciting squad.

England A are back in action for the first time since 2016, and it looks to be an exciting squad.

Steve Borthwick has picked yet another fresh looking squad to take on the World Cup darlings Portugal, which again sees the former Leicester Tigers boss reward club form.

In-form youngsters Fin Baxter, Rusi Tuima, Tarek Haffar, Greg Fisilau and Guy Pepper could all get their first taste of the international stage, but this youthful group are blended nicely with some more seasoned internationals.

Charlie Ewels, Nick Isiekwe, Harry Randall and Jamie Blamire have all got several England caps to their name, and will only boost the quality of this squad.

There is also some promising coaches being given their first taste of the international arena, with Gloucester boss George Skivington being handed the reigns, and he will work alongside fellow Cherry and White’s coach Dom Waldouck and Northampton Saints’ Sam Vesty.

But how might this team shape up for the clash against Portugal? Here is our best bet at an England A starting XV:

1 Fin Baxter

Harlequins v Leicester Tigers Gallagher Premiership Rugby 26/01/2024. Fin Baxter of Harlequins during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Harlequins and Leicester Tigers at Twickenham Stoop, Twickenham, United Kingdom on 26 January 2024. Twickenham Twickenham Stoop London United Kingdom Editorial use only , Copyright: xPaulxPhelanx PSI-18885-0064

The Harlequins prop has really impressed in recent seasons, and is starting to look like a top quality loosehead. He is solid in the scrum and can also carry effectively. He looks likely to get the starting shirt.

2 Jamie Blamire

Newcastle Falcons v Exeter Chiefs – Gallagher Premiership Rugby n2 is scoring during the Gallagher Premiership match between Newcastle Falcons and Exeter Chiefs at Kingston Park in Newcastle, on November 26, 2023. Newcastle Tyne and Wear United Kingdom PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxFRA Copyright: xMIxNewsx originalFilename:fletcher-newcastl231020_nppJI.jpg

One of the capped players in the squad, Jamie Blamire will likely start at hooker. He hit the ground running in the England senior set-up, and was scoring for fun. This test against Portugal gives him the perfect chance to stake a claim to return to the main team soon.

3 Josh Iosefa-Scott

Exeter Chiefs v Glasgow Warriors, Exeter, UK – 13 Jan 2024 Josh Iosefa-Scott of Exeter Chiefs on the breakduring the Investec Champions Cup, Round 3 match between Exeter Chiefs and Glasgow Warriors at Sandy Park, Exeter on 13th Jan 2024. Exeter Sandy Park Devon GBR Copyright: xPhilxMingo/PPAUKx PPA-082013

The New Zealand born prop has come on leaps and bounds this season, and has reaped the rewards by finding himself named in the England A squad. He has been integral to the weaponised Exeter Chiefs scrum this season, and should do the same for England A this weekend.

4 Rusi Tuima

Gloucester Rugby v Exeter Chiefs Premiership Rugby Cup 17/02/2024. Rusi Tuima of Exeter Chiefs during the Premiership Rugby Cup Semi Final match between Gloucester Rugby and Exeter Chiefs at the Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester, United Kingdom on 17 February 2024. Gloucester Kingsholm Stadium Gloucestershire United Kingdom Editorial use only , Copyright: xSimonxKingx PSI-19057-0236

Another key cog of the Chiefs pack this year has been Rusi Tuima. His move into the second-row has allowed him to truly flourish this season, and he has again dramatically improved because of it. He has become instrumental around the park this season for Exeter, and if afforded the chance he will likely do the same for England A.

5 Charlie Ewels

Investec Champions Cup Round 3, Recreation Ground, Bath, England 14/1/2024 Bath Rugby vs Racing 92 Bath s Charlie Ewels Charlie Ewels celebrates at the final whistle 14/1/2024 PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxIRLxFRAxNZL Copyright: xï½INPHO/BillyxSticklandx BST_8270

Charlie Ewels played in the last England A match back in 2016, however he has gone onto become a seasoned international player. He will likely adopt a leadership role in the group too, but like Blamire he will want to showcase why he should be back in the main England squad.

6 Tom Pearson

Northampton Saints v Bath, Gallagher Premiership, Rugby Union, cinch Stadium at Franklin s Gardens, Northampton, UK – 04 Nov 2023 PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxHUNxGRExMLTxCYPxROUxBULxUAExKSAxONLY Copyright: xLeexMills/Shutterstockx 14182312f

Tom Pearson can feel hard done by to not be involved this Six Nations, but an opportunity to play for England A again gives him the perfect chance to show what he can do in the test arena. He has also been one of Northampton’s standout players this season, and deserves an opportunity to show what he’s about.

7 Guy Pepper

Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins – Gallagher Premiership Rugby Guy Pepper of Newcastle Falcons is taking on the Quins defense during the Gallagher Premiership match between Newcastle Falcons and Harlequins at Kingston Park in Newcastle, England, on January 5, 2024. Newcastle Tyne and Wear United Kingdom PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxFRA Copyright: xMIxNewsx originalFilename:fletcher-newcastl240105_np1WE.jpg

Pepper is one of the best up and coming back-rowers in the Premiership. He has been a bright spark in an otherwise dark year for the Newcastle Falcons, and he is more than deserving of a chance to showcase his talent in this England A group. It could also propel him into the main England squad.

8 Alfie Barbeary

Investec Champions Cup Round 1, Recreation Ground, Bath 9/12/2023 Bath Rugby vs Ulster Bath s Alfie Barbeary is tackled by Nathan Doak and Alan OConnor of Ulster Alfie Barbeary is tackled by Nathan Doak and Alan OConnor 9/12/2023 PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxIRLxFRAxNZL Copyright: x INPHO/LaszloxGeczox LG_01947

Alfie Barbeary has had his injury worries in recent times, but this season he has been a monster for Bath. The former Wasp has quickly become a key man for the Blue, Black and Whites this year and if it wasn’t for his spot of ill-discipline in the Champions Cup he could have been in the main Six Nations squad. This test for England A is a huge opportunity to show why he should be called up.

9 Harry Randall

Investec Champions Cup Round 1, Ashton Gate, Bristol 9/12/2023 Bristol Bears vs Lyon Harry Randall of Bristol Bears passes the ball Harry Randall 9/12/2023 PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxIRLxFRAxNZL Copyright: x INPHO/JMPUK/AndyxWattsx JMP_Bears_vs_Lyon_AW0124

Another one of the capped players, Randall has seen himself fall down the pecking order in recent years. He has struggled with injuries, but when at his best he is a quality scrum half, and hopefully he can take this chance with both hands.

10 Charlie Atkinson

Gloucester Rugby v Sale Sharks Gallagher Premiership Rugby 28/01/2024. TRY – Gloucester Rugby Fly-Half Charlie Atkinson 10 prepares to handoff Sale Sharks Fly-half Robert Du Preez, Captain 10 during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Gloucester Rugby and Sale Sharks at the Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester, United Kingdom on 28 January 2024. Editorial use only , Copyright: xWaynexTuckwellx PSI-18912-0091

Atkinson is a quality young fly-half. He impressed at the Tigers last season, and although he has only just moved to Kingsholme there is already plenty of excitement around him. This could be a great way to put himself in the spotlight.

11 Will Muir

Bath Rugby v Racing 92, Bath, UK – 14 Jan 2024 Try Celebrations for Will Muir of Bath Rugby as he goes over for a try during the Investec Champions Cup Match between Bath Rugby and Racing 92 at the Recreation Ground on 7 January 2024. Bath The Recreation Ground Somerset GBR Copyright: xTomxSandberg/PPAUKx PPA-082324

The horse is probably THE form winger in England right now, and this test against Portugal could give him the chance he needs to burst into the England 23. He is a quality winger, and has a real eye for the try line, which could prove crucial against Portugal.

12 Olly Hartley

Olly Hartley of Saracens Saracens v Connacht, Rugby Union, Investec Champions Cup, StoneX Stadium, London, UK – 16/12/2023 PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxHUNxGRExMLTxCYPxROUxBULxUAExKSAxONLY Copyright: xMattxImpey/Shutterstockx 14260483bv

Hartley is a talented young centre, and giving him a shot from the start could be a huge learning opportunity for him. He has impressed for Saracens this season, but this is yet another chance to show what he is about.

13 Max Ojomoh

Gloucester Rugby v Bath Rugby, Gloucester, UK – 10 Nov 2023 Max Ojomoh of Bath Rugby slips the tackle of Fraser Balmain of Gloucester Rugby during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Gloucester Rugby and Bath Rugby at Kingsholm Stadium on 10 November 2023 in Gloucester, England. Photo by Tom Sandberg/PPAUK Gloucester Kingsholm Stadium GBR Copyright: xTomxSandberg/PPAUKx PPA-067318

The Bath centre is again a player in red hot form, and the chance to play for England A could allow him to stake a claim to get a nod for the main team. He has become a crucial cog in the Bath backline alongside Ollie Lawrence this season, and his silky skillset will be a proper asset to this England A squad.

14 Cadan Murley

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Robbie Stephenson/JMP/Shutterstock 13902372bk Cadan Murley of Harlequins scores a try Leicester Tigers v Harlequins, UK – 06 May 2023 Leicester Tigers v Harlequins, UK – 06 May 2023 PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxHUNxGRExMLTxCYPxROUxBULxUAExKSAxONLY Copyright: xRobbiexStephenson/JMP/Shutterstockx 13902372bk

Cadan Murley can probably count himself unlucky not to have a senior cap next to his name, but the opportunity now in front of him with England A should get him back in Steve Borthwick’s thoughts for the main side. He has been one of the best wingers in the Premiership for some time now, and this will be a good chance to give him the exposure to the international stage he deserves.

15 Josh Hodge

Exeter Chiefs v Scarlets Rugby Friendly 10/02/2024. Josh Hodge of Exeter Chiefs on the attack during the Rugby Friendly match between Exeter Chiefs and Scarlets at Sandy Park, Exeter, United Kingdom on 10 February 2024. Exeter Sandy Park Devon United Kingdom Editorial use only , Copyright: xGrahamxHuntx PSI-18990-0108

Rounding off the starting 15 is Josh Hodge. The Exeter Chiefs full-back has electrifying pace, and can create a try out of nothing. His form prior to injury was arguably the best form of his career, and now he is back fully fit he will be keen to again showcase his quality

England A squad in full:

Forwards: Fin Baxter, Tarek Haffar, Jamie Blamire, Sam Riley, Seb Blake, Josh Iosefa Scott, Joe Hayes, Charlie Ewels, James Harper, Nick Isiekwe, Arthur Clark, Ben Bamber, Rusi Tuima, Tom Pearson, Guy Pepper, Alfie Barbeary, Greg Fisilau, Jack Clement,

Backs: Caolan Englefield, Harry Randall, Ollie Sleightholme, Oliver Hartley, Rekeiti Ma’asi-White, Charlie Atkinson, Jamie Shillcock, , Cadan Murley, Sam Harris, Will Muir, Max Ojomoh, Ollie Hassell-Collins, Josh Hodge