Winners and losers from England’s touring squad as Rugby World Cup star returns

David Skippers
Tom Curry and Steve Borthwick England RWC 2023 - Alamy

England back-row Tom Curry and head coach Steve Borthwick.

Following the announcement of England’s squad for their upcoming Tests against Japan and the All Blacks, we pick our winners and losers from Steve Borthwick’s selection.

The England head coach has named a 36-man squad featuring six uncapped players while others have earned recalls with Borthwick rewarding form.

Without further ado, here are our winners and losers from the group.

Winners

Double delight for Curry twins

While Ben Curry has benefitted from some strong performances for Sale Sharks during their run to the Premiership semi-finals, his brother, Tom, has been included based purely on how he has performed at Test level in the past as he is one of the best players in the world in his position and shone for England at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Although Tom was sidelined for a large chunk of the Premiership season, due to a hip injury sustained during England‘s win over Argentina in the bronze medal match at last year’s global showpiece, he made a successful return to action in Sale’s loss to Bath in their Premiership semi-final at the Rec. Despite coming on to the field early in the second half, the seasoned international made his presence felt with some big defensive hits and strong carries on attack which proved that he is fully fit and ready for a return to the international arena.

Meanwhile, Ben has gone quietly about his business for Sale Sharks but his impressive form has earned him a deserved Test recall and he will be determined to add to his five Test caps which have all been won when Tom has been on British and Irish Lions duty or injured. They will be hoping to run out for England in the same Test during the upcoming tour.

Uncapped six

The newbies in Borthwick‘s squad are Fin Baxter (Harlequins), Gabriel Oghre (Bristol Bears), Joe Carpenter (Sale Sharks), Tom Roebuck (Sale Sharks), Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints) and Luke Northmore (Harlequins).

All have been in fine form for their respective clubs with promising prop Baxter standing up well to the rigours of the front-row battle in the Premiership and Champions Cup against more seasoned opponents.

Meanwhile, former Wasps hooker Oghre joined Bristol at the start of the season after short stints at Leicester Tigers and Bordeaux-Begles. The 26-year-old has done well at the Ashton Gate club and been a regular in their senior side, displaying good form as the Bears delivered a strong run during the latter stages of the season before narrowly missing out on the play-offs.

The other four uncapped players are all in the backline and deserve their call-ups with Northmore forming a solid midfield partnership with Andre Esterhuizen at Quins while Sleightholme played a leading role in Northampton’s victorious Premiership campaign and finished the season as the tournament’s leading try-scorer.

Meanwhile, Sale back three duo Carpenter and Roebuck’s call-ups are richly deserved as they have combined brilliantly at club level and will be hoping to transfer their club form to the Test scene.

Experienced quartet get the nod

Borthwick’s squad has a healthy mix of promising and experienced players with senior players like Charlie Ewels, Alex Dombrandt, Harry Randall and Ben Spencer keen to impress if presented with opportunities.

Ewels and Dombrandt are two players who have been involved in the England set-up for several years now but both have been on the fringes of the first choice XV under both Borthwick and his predecessor, Eddie Jones. The forward duo will be hoping to cement their places in the run-on side on this tour.

Meanwhile, scrum-halves Randall and Spencer are back in the mix at Test level after displaying excellent form for Bristol and Bath respectively. With Northampton’s Alex Mitchell firmly entrenched as the first choice number nine, they will battle it out to be his back-up.

England select six uncapped players for mid-year Tests as Tom Curry goes despite Sale Sharks’ reservations

Losers

Red card proves costly

Bath loosehead prop Beno Obano was in outstanding form for his club for several months and helped them book their spot in the Premiership final. Apart from catching the eye with his excellence at scrum time, the 29-year-old also impressed as a ball carrier – characteristics which would have put him in the mix for Test selection.

However, his world came crashing down in Saturday’s defeat to Northampton in the Premiership final when he was red carded for a dangerous hit on Juarno Augustus, midway through the opening half. While Bath did brilliantly to stay in the game until its closing stages, Obano’s dismissal proved costly in the bigger scheme of things and with a suspension looming on the horizon, it surely cost him an England call-up as well.

Northampton front-row trio miss out

While newly crowned Premiership champions Northampton Saints have caught the eye with the enterprising style of play of their backline, their forwards deserve plenty of credit for their success as they have set a solid platform for their backs.

It all starts up front where the likes of prop duo Emmanuel Iyogun and Trevor Davison have caught the eye with their excellent scrummaging while hooker Curtis Langdon has also done his bit in that aspect of the game while also catching the eye in the execution of his other core duties and especially his ball carrying, which has been superb throughout the season.

While Iyogun and Davison were overlooked by Borthwick, it looks like Langdon is unlucky to miss out as he picked up a shoulder injury in Saturday’s Premiership final victory over Bath.

Bath back-row duo overlooked

Ted Hill and Alfie Barbeary are two players who have been at the forefront of Bath’s onslaught and made a big impact on the West Country outfit’s run to the Premiership final.

The duo combined brilliantly in the back-row alongside Sam Underhill with Hill hitting his straps at the right time after spending five months on the sidelines following surgery to a hamstring injury.

He only made his return to action in March but has been superb since then with his defensive work and ball carrying amongst his strengths.

However, with Chandler Cunningham-South cementing his spot in England’s squad during the Six Nations, it was unlikely that Hill would earn a call-up although he is unlucky to miss out.

Meanwhile, Babeary is one of the most explosive runners in the Premiership who gave Bath good momentum throughout the season and Borthwick might have missed a trick not selecting him. The 23-year-old was a regular for England at age-grade level and also represented his country’s ‘A’ side but is still waiting for a Test call-up.

Former first choice scrum-half gets the chop

The past eight months have been tough for Leicester Tigers scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet, who had cemented himself as England’s first choice scrum-half in the build up to the 2023 World Cup in France before missing out shortly before the global showpiece due to a serious ankle injury.

Van Poortvliet recovered from that setback and made his comeback for Leicester in March. He delivered some solid performances for his club and was named in England’s provisional 19-man group ahead of the summer tour at the end of May.

However, Borthwick was always going to bring Mitchell into his squad after the Premiership final and did the same with Spencer, which meant it was either Van Poortvliet or Randall who would get the chop and unfortunately for the Leicester Tiger it was him.

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