England’s highly anticipated World Cup squad has been unveiled, and it comes with a few surprising omissions and strategic inclusions. Notably, former vice-captain Henry Slade finds himself left out of the final 33, a decision that has caught many off guard. This move by Steve Borthwick, the team’s head coach, adds an element of unpredictability to England’s approach in the upcoming tournament.
The Shocking Exclusion of Henry Slade
In a decision that has raised eyebrows within the rugby community, Henry Slade has been omitted from England’s World Cup squad. Despite his history as a former vice-captain, his significant contribution to the team with 56 caps, and his participation in four Six Nations matches this year, Slade’s role in the upcoming tournament has been denied. This surprising move comes after Slade’s brief appearance off the bench in the match against Wales, where he played for only 10 minutes.
Strategic Choices: Joe Marchant’s Opportunity
The omission of Henry Slade opens the door for Joe Marchant to make his mark on the World Cup stage. Marchant, benefiting from his versatility to play both in the center and on the wing, becomes a pivotal figure in England’s strategy. This move highlights Borthwick’s emphasis on power and adaptability—a departure from Slade’s more finesse-based approach.
Back-Row Dynamics: Alex Dombrandt and Joe Cokanasiga Miss Out
The back-row selections also reflect England’s evolving game plan. Notable omissions include Alex Dombrandt, Tom Willis, and Tom Pearson. Surprisingly, Ben Earl secures a place, showcasing the team’s inclination towards a diverse skill set. Lewis Ludlam steps in to provide No. 8 cover to Billy Vunipola, further exemplifying the shift in focus.
Bolstering the Forward Ranks for an Impressive Back-Five
Steve Borthwick has reinforced the forward ranks with a selection of 10 players for the back-five positions. This decision sees George Martin and David Ribbans included, despite their performances in Cardiff not meeting expectations. The lock options are led by Maro Itoje, Ollie Chessum, and Courtney Lawes. Jack Willis and Tom Curry join Vunipola, Ludlam, and Earl in the back rows—a formidable lineup that highlights England’s commitment to strength and resilience.
Scrutinizing the Back-Line Choices
Borthwick’s approach to the back-line emphasizes versatility and depth. The inclusion of three scrum-halves—Ben Youngs, Jack van Poortvliet, and Danny Care—underscores the importance of tactical flexibility. With a trio of No. 10 options in Owen Farrell, George Ford, and Marcus Smith, the onus on versatility becomes evident. This approach, in part, led to the omission of Slade, a center by trade.
New Faces and X-Factor
While many selections reflect a preference for grit and determination, the inclusion of Henry Arundell adds an element of X-factor to the squad. Arundell’s potential to provide a unique dimension to England’s play is evident in his selection. This move demonstrates the delicate balance Borthwick aims to strike between reliable grafters and players capable of injecting excitement into the game.
Looking Ahead: France 2023 and Beyond
Steve Borthwick’s squad selection for France 2023 reflects a meticulous approach to preparing for the challenges that lie ahead. While the omission of some established names may raise eyebrows, Borthwick’s strategy suggests a desire for adaptability, resilience, and versatility on the field. With a clear focus on competition and preparation, England’s World Cup campaign is poised to be a compelling journey of strategic maneuvering and dynamic play.