With the start of the Six Nations just two weeks away, we pick an England side to take on Scotland on February 4 based purely on their performances at the weekend.
Most of the 36-man squad named by Steve Borthwick featured in either the Champions Cup or Challenge Cup as they battled to impress ahead of the international tournament.
Planet Rugby looks at England before we delve into which players have pushed for selection in the France squad on Tuesday.
Planet Rugby’s England XV from the weekend’s games
15 Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers): Apart from one drop, he was once again excellent under the high ball and a threat on the counter. The only natural full-back in the squad but Elliot Daly’s form should not be dismissed. However, he struggled in a mediocre Saracens display against Edinburgh and went off injured in the second half.
14 Cadan Murley (Harlequins): Plenty of options in this position with Tommy Freeman and Max Malins in fine form, but the Quins man was comfortably the best as they defeated the Sharks. Scored one try, was a constant threat with the ball and displayed his strength and pace, with one especially impressive surge late in the game making him stand out.
13 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs): Perhaps tough on Joe Marchant, who played well for Harlequins, but Slade showed his class for Exeter in their victory over Castres. Finished off a sweeping move to set the Chiefs on their way before displaying his playmaking qualities to help the Devonians to a dominant win.
12 Dan Kelly (Leicester Tigers): A rock in defence and some subtle touches in attack, he sees off the threat of Manu Tuilagi, who is still searching for his best form. Tuilagi just isn’t punching the holes he used to, which means that Kelly should be the front-runner for the inside centre jersey.
11 Ollie Hassell-Collins (London Irish): Every time he gets the ball, you think something special is going to happen. Against Montpellier, Hassell-Collins rarely received possession in space but he still managed to gain ground with regularity. Another excellent performance as he moves closer to getting an England debut.
No Jonny May and so great chance for Cadan Murley and Ollie Hassell-Collins to show their power and pace
— chris jones (@chrisjonespress) January 16, 2023
10 Marcus Smith (Harlequins): An easy call here with Owen Farrell banned and Fin Smith failing to make much of an impact against La Rochelle. Smith controlled the match against the Sharks and more often than not took the right option. We have a feeling that Borthwick may go for the Saracens man at fly-half, but the 23-year-old has hit the ground running since returning from injury.
9 Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers): With Alex Mitchell not featuring for Northampton, that leaves the battle between two Leicester players, Van Poortvliet and Ben Youngs. The youngster has had a slight dip in form recently but he was better against the Ospreys and helped them to a 26-20 lead before Youngs came. The 33-year-old then failed to get his side in the right areas and see out the game, which means Van Poortvliet takes it.
8 Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins): England have two dynamic number eights to choose from in Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds and we felt the former edged it to this jersey after the weekend’s games. Was on the end of a lovely Harlequins score and chipped in defensively too on a good day for Quins, with a maturing Dombrandt’s leadership also a feather in his cap.
7 Ben Curry (Sale Sharks): Many Sale fans wax lyrical about this Curry brother and it’s easy to see why. Ben took the fight to the opposition once again for the Sharks as he scored an intelligent try from a lineout move and was nuggety throughout against Ulster. With brother Tom absent due to injury, don’t be surprised if you see another Curry on the England team-sheet this February.
6 Jack Willis (Toulouse): Is already becoming a fan favourite at the French outfit and once again impressed, making impacts on both sides of the ball. His breakdown work is already well known but he was also a significant carrying threat, regularly denting the Munster defence with his sheer physicality. Interestingly, Willis was also used as a lineout option by Toulouse, so he could take that blindside spot with Courtney Lawes potentially out.
5 Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers): Ahead of other lock rivals in the squad at the moment on current form as Chessum continues to put in strong, workmanlike, performances for Leicester Tigers. Jonny Hill was out of sorts for Sale Sharks over the weekend while David Ribbans, who has been called up for Lawes, also had an off game for Northampton Saints against La Rochelle.
4 Maro Itoje (Saracens): Nowhere near his best right now but Itoje still comes out on top after an industrious effort in a losing cause for Saracens, racking up 15 tackles at Edinburgh. He’ll need to lift his game against several of those Edinburgh players in their Six Nations opener, however, as time is running out to hit peak form.
🏴 Gets recalled to the @EnglandRugby squad
💥 Celebrates with a 𝐇𝐔𝐆𝐄 hit!
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) January 20, 2023
3 Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers): While Kyle Sinckler had a decent outing for Bristol Bears, it was against lesser opposition in the Challenge Cup. Meanwhile, Cole continues to churn out solid performances – the latest against the Ospreys – as he looks rejuvenated since his recent call-up to the England squad. Borthwick is clearly a fan and knows that the veteran can still offer plenty at Test level and in our eyes he’s a starter not a finisher, especially on current form.
2 Jack Walker (Harlequins): It might sound harsh but it could be a case of last man standing for England’s hooker shirt against Scotland. Luke Cowan-Dickie is already ruled out while George McGuigan is also a casualty after the weekend, which is a great shame as he deserves a shot under Borthwick. Throw in uncertainty surrounding Jamie George after his concussion on Sunday and Harlequins’ Walker looks set to get the nod at this current moment in time.
1 Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks): Ellis Genge was very good for Bristol but, in a losing cause, Ross was outstanding for the Greater Manchester outfit. The loosehead prop’s scrummaging is getting better all the time but his superpower is undoubtedly his jackalling ability. The 22-year-old dominated the contact area in the first 50 minutes against Ulster and his skills were missed when he was replaced.