Last chance saloon for these England players as they look to make Rugby World Cup squad

Jared Wright
England head coach Steve Borthwick has named his final matchday 23 before announcing the 33-man squad that will go to the Rugby World Cup.

This weekend's game against Wales is the last opportunity to impress before the Rugby World Cup squad is named.

England head coach Steve Borthwick has named his final matchday 23 before announcing the 33-man squad that will go to the Rugby World Cup.

The clash against Wales provides players with the opportunity to make one last push to book their ticket to France, with Borthwick set to name his final squad for the Rugby World Cup on Tuesday, August 8.

We take a look at who those players are and who they are jostling with for a spot in the final 33.

Theo Dan and Jamie Blamire

Borthwick is set to name three hookers in his 33-man squad for the Rugby World Cup, and with Luke Cowan-Dickie out injured, Jamie George is the only nailed-on member.

Jack Walker is likely to deputise for him, but because he has been struggling with an injury, there is a massive chance for Saturday’s hookers to grab the available spots in the squad.

Saracens’ Theo Dan and Newcastle’s Jamie Blamire are effectively battling it out for a spot in the squad, and their respective performances could book them their flights to France.

There is a case that both perform well enough to leapfrog Walker in the pecking order, particularly considering that George racked up massive minutes during the Six Nations and went deep into the second half of all five games.

Bevan Rodd

There is no doubt that this week’s captain and loosehead prop Ellis Genge will be included in the Rugby World Cup squad and looks set to be joined by Harlequins loosehead Joe Marler.

That leaves just one more loosehead prop position, and with Mako Vunipola currently injured, there is an opportunity for Bevan Rodd to sneak into the final squad.

The Sale Sharks man has been in and out of the training squad, but a strong shift off the bench could push him up the pecking order and convince Borthwick to go with the less experienced option considering he already has seasoned internationals in his two first-choice number ones.

Midfielders

Judging on the selections made for the showdown with Wales, Borthwick will include Ollie Lawrence, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly and Henry Slade as his centre options for the World Cup.

While some of the above-mentioned can and will cover multiple positions, there is a question mark over the two starters against Wales.

Both Guy Porter and Joe Marchant have been seesawed in and out of the squad during Eddie Jones’ tenure and the start of Borthwick’s.

The duo also provide options on the wing, with Porter capable of playing both centre positions, which works in his favour.

Versatility will undoubtedly play a role in the final selections, but putting their hands up and making the most of their last chance out on the pitch could force Borthwick’s hand.

Wingers

The two starting centres could also feature here, as it certainly looks like Anthony Watson and Henry Arundell are nailed-on wingers for the World Cup.

But outside of the pair, it gets a bit tricker as Jonny May missed the Six Nations but is still in the squad, while Cadan Murley has yet to make his debut.

This weekend Max Malins and Joe Cokanasiga are in the starting XV, and while the former offers versatility, it’s likely not needed as the full-back position is well covered.

Cokanasiga, meanwhile, offers an abrasive and physical edge to the side, bringing something entirely different from the rest of his fellow wingers.

However, that comes at a cost, as his kicking and aerial skills are not at the same level as the aforementioned outside backs. Only Borthwick and his coaching staff will know important that is.

Marcus Smith

One has to think that with George Ford and Owen Farrell fully fit and firing for the World Cup, if Marcus Smith’s chances of making the final cut have dropped significantly.

Farrell will be the first name on Borthwick’s 33-man list, and the captain’s armband will accompany it. Borthwick is also set to back Ford, who he worked with at Leicester Tigers.

The big questions, however, will be whether Farrell will play fly-half, inside centre, or both during the World Cup and will three number 10s be needed for the tournament, or will two be enough?

Smith has the opportunity to provide the answer to those questions on Saturday, with his performance likely holding a lot of weight in the decision.

It’s certainly a tough call, but Smith may miss out on selection for his first Rugby World Cup with the veteran options preferred.

Back-rowers

The back-rowers selected for the clash against Wales could all be playing for their place in the squad.

It would certainly be a shock if any of Tom Curry, Jack Willis and Courtney Lawes miss the final cut to 33; hence they miss the last match before the squad is named.

The same possibly applies to Billy Vunipola, who has been retained in the squad throughout the chopping and changing, with Zach Mercer left out.

Beyond that it gets far more interesting with the starting trio this weekend, Lewis Ludlam, Tom Pearson and Alex Dombrandt all possibly fighting for their place along with Tom Willis.

Willis and Pearson make their Test debuts off the back of phenomenal seasons, Willis in France with Bordeaux and Pearson in the Premiership with London Irish.

Ludlam and Dombrandt have the edge over the rest, having played the Six Nations, but with margins tight, any of the four back-rowers could make or miss out on the squad.

There is also an opportunity for George Martin, who earns his second Test cap, to stake his claim. The lock/blindside flanker is another who worked closely with Borthwick, and like Lawes, his ability to play in the second and back-row works in his favour, despite his lack of international experience.

The four back-rowers tackling Wales are all breakdown threats, painting a clear picture of what Borthwick is after, while number eights, Dombrandt and Willis, will need to make big inroads as ball carriers if they stand a chance of cracking the final 33.

READ MORE: Marcus Smith gets 10 jersey as England hand out three new caps for Wales clash