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2024 Six Nations: Steve Borthwick's selection dilemmas in England

2024 Six Nations: Steve Borthwick's selection dilemmas in England

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Emmanuel Feyi-Waboso, Fraser Dingwall and Tommy Freeman are in the England squad

Guinness Six Nations: Italy vs England

place: Olympic Stadium, Rome date: Saturday 3 February Starting: 14:15 GMT

coverage: Listen to BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra and follow the live transcript on the BBC Sport website and app; Watch live on ITV.

England's Six Nations campaign gets underway in the Eternal City on Saturday, but head coach Steve Borthwick faces some tough selection decisions ahead of his side's opening match.

England have never lost to Italy and are favorites to extend their winning streak in Rome.

Courtney Laws, Mako Vunipola, Ben Youngs and Jonny May have all retired from international duty, while several foreign players are ineligible for selection, and former captain Owen Farrell is taking a break from Test rugby.

BBC Sport looks at four dilemmas facing Borthwick ahead of England's opening match against the Azzurri.

Winger – Pearson to claim share?

Veteran Laws has retired from England duty and Tom Curry has been ruled out of the Six Nations with a thigh injury, so Borthwick's wingers will have a new look after their World Cup semi-final defeat to South Africa.

Jack Willis is based abroad with Toulouse and is therefore ineligible for selection, and Lewis Ludlam has not been included in the squad, so Borthwick does not have much experience to draw on.

Exeter's Ethan Roots and Harlequins' Chandler Cunningham-South have been called up to the first team for the first time, while Carey's twin brother Ben and Northampton's Tom Pearson have six caps.

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Tom Pearson made his first and only appearance for England in the pre-World Cup warm-up match against Wales

Bath's Sam Underhill is also back in the England fold and is likely to take a starting role against Italy, with 24-year-old Pearson favored by many to claim the latter.

He is physically imposing in defence, tireless at the breakdown and rushes to the ball with central speed in attack, as evidenced by his hat-trick in the Investec Champions Cup win over Bayonne.

With Ben Earle at number eight and Underhill's skills at the breakdown, the back row could be well balanced.

Fly-half – Ford or Smith?

Smith played a pivotal role in leading Northampton to the top of the Premier League in their breakthrough season, while Ford won 91 caps and played a starring role in England's win over Argentina in their World Cup opener.

Finn Smith, 21, has shown a game management that belies his years and has the right physical attributes – a sharp stride, quick acceleration and precise distribution.

It could be the combination of flair and realism that England and Borthwick are looking for.

Ford, 30, is tried and tested at Test level and has the ability to control the game against the Azzurri, but Smith will be the future for England – and this could look like the perfect match to see what Finn can do.

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Finn Smith: England's call-up to the Six Nations Championship is “daunting but exciting”

Inside the Center – Is it Dingwall's time to shine?

The power of Manu Tuilagi was often the preferred option in midfield for both Borthwick and his predecessor Eddie Jones.

But Center Sale is out with a thigh injury and it is not clear whether the England management still has the 32-year-old in their plans or whether they are looking to the future.

Exeter's Henry Slade is back in the line-up after missing the World Cup, and Elliot Daly can also play in midfield, although both are better suited as an outside midfielder.

Bath's Ollie Lawrence would have been a natural replacement for Tuilagi but his injury has led to a first call-up for club-mate Max Ojomoh as cover and he is likely to finally open a door in the side for Northampton's unqualified Fraser Dingwall.

Like Pearson and Finn Smith, the 24-year-old has starred for the Saints in the Premier League thanks to his relentless defence.

He's not the biggest or quickest centre-back but he is a more versatile option, and with the experience of 10 previous England call-ups, he could have the No. 12 spot to his credit.

Wing – New faces to shine?

Jonny May's England career is over, Henry Arundel and Jack Noel are now playing club rugby in France, and Anthony Watson is regaining fitness after a calf injury that ruled him out of the World Cup.

All of this means that England are looking for a new driving force on the wing.

Tommy Freeman, 22, is another beneficiary of the Northampton model. He has a powerful and efficient running style and has been a contender to win England's fourth cap from the start.

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Immanuel Feyi-Waboso played rugby at his age group for Wales

He has shown speed, strength through the tackle and an eye for the testing line – with five goals in 10 Premier League games for Chiefs this season – in a breakout campaign.

These traits could be the ticket for the uncapped winger after the Cardiff-born player turned his back on Wales.

But if Borthwick wants to try a trial match, 64-cap Daly is a guaranteed option, while Freddie Steward could also deputize on the wing, as he did in the World Cup against Argentina, should Northampton's George Furbank be rewarded for his impressive form for the club. . A place at fullback.

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