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George Ford is a top contender for the No. 10 position on the England team, with Fin Smith also being considered as a potential replacement.
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George Ford is a top contender for the No. 10 position on the England team, with Fin Smith also being considered as a potential replacement.

It is probable that George Ford will receive the number 10 jersey for England’s first Six Nations match against Italy on Saturday, beating out Fin Smith in the competition for the starting fly-half position. Uncapped Exeter wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso is also expected to be included on the bench in Rome.

Fraser Dingwall is prepared for his highly anticipated first appearance at inside-centre, while Ethan Roots – who has played for the Maori All Blacks – is also expected to begin as blindside flanker.

Following a calf injury that sidelined Marcus Smith this week, Steve Borthwick had to choose between two options: the veteran Ford with 92 caps under his belt, or the up-and-coming 21-year-old Fin Smith, who has been in exceptional form as England’s fly-half and is having a great season with Northampton.

At first, it seemed that Fin Smith was the top contender, but an injury to his teammate Alex Mitchell from Northampton has made things more complicated. Due to Mitchell’s inability to practice this week, Danny Care is prepared to take on the role of No. 9, with Ford likely to join him as the half-backs. If Fin Smith is brought in as a substitute, it will be his debut, and Mitchell will undergo a fitness evaluation on Thursday morning and may also be selected as a substitute.

Feyi-Waboso, who is also qualified to play for Wales, may soon find himself on the substitute bench and could potentially earn his first cap, marking a remarkable ascent for the 21-year-old who was playing for Taunton Titans just a year ago. It is rumored that he was originally planned to be included in the squad before England’s recent string of injuries, and unless this has caused Borthwick to reconsider, Feyi-Waboso is likely to don the No 23 jersey.

In other news, Dingwall, who is in his 10th England team but hasn’t played yet, is expected to play as No. 12 with Henry Slade returning to the team as outside-centre after not making the World Cup squad last year.

After being sidelined due to injuries to Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence, 24-year-old Dingwall will finally have his opportunity to play. He will likely be joined by his Northampton teammate Tommy Freeman, as well as Elliot Daly and Freddie Steward in the backline.

Immanuel Feyi-Waboso trains with England before the Six NationsView image in fullscreen

Dingwall and Freeman have been chosen as expected, as they have been performing well for Northampton this season and have helped the team reach the top spot in the Premiership. According to England’s assistant coach Kevin Sinfield, while Dingwall might not have the same size as Manu, he is still dedicated to putting in the effort and being a strong presence on the defensive line.

He is highly skilled at strategizing and has exceptional decision-making when passing. He offers a unique way of advancing the ball, but I believe he also adds strength to the team’s offense. Despite not being physically imposing, he surpasses expectations and is able to find gaps in the defense.

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In the forward pack, Roots’s promotion represents a rapid rise after joining Exeter from the Ospreys in the summer. He is eligible through his English father and is ready to come straight into the side, forming a back row with Sam Underhill – man of the match in the World Cup bronze medal match against Argentina – and Ben Earl.

When selecting players for his team in the Six Nations, Borthwick recalled, “I faced the Ospreys in Europe and noticed this particular player who stood out to me.” However, he didn’t think much of it at the time. Later, during the World Cup in Le Touquet, he saw Richard Hill watching the Premiership Rugby Cup games on his computer in the dining room.

“The individual stopped me and requested, ‘Join me in observing this player for the next two minutes.’ I observed him alongside Hilly, and it was remarkable – his level of effort and physicality were impressive. Hilly instructed me to ‘keep an eye on this guy’. When Richard Hill gives advice on following a back-row player, I pay close attention.”

Jamie George will lead the team as captain in the front row, alongside Joe Marler and Will Stuart as the anticipated props. Maro Itoje, who is expected to play alongside Ollie Chessum in the second row, has recently signed a new long-term contract with Saracens. Additionally, the Rugby Football Union has offered him an improved “hybrid” contract.

Source: theguardian.com