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England chose to play Italy with Emmanuel Feyi-Waboso scoring 23

England chose to play Italy with Emmanuel Feyi-Waboso scoring 23

Emmanuel Faye-Wabuso has been selected in England's Round 23 match for their Six Nations opener against Italy, and will officially become ineligible for Wales if he takes the field.

Former Ospreys Ethan Roots and Fraser Dingwall will make their England debut on Saturday, Steve Borthwick has confirmed. Chandler Cunningham-South and Finn Smith join Feyi-Waboso as new faces on the bench.

“Winning your first cap for your country is always a very special occasion,” Borthwick said. “We are delighted with the new players who have all worked incredibly hard to be selected in Group 23 to face Italy. I know Saturday will be a hugely proud moment for the players and their families.” Get the latest news by signing up to our Rugby newsletter.

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Borthwick's advice to the new arrivals was simple: “My message to them this week is to be themselves, seize the opportunity given to them, and play with the strengths and skills that have made them worthy of selection in a strong Six Nations squad.”

Alex Mitchell has recovered from a leg injury to join George Ford at full-back. Ford, who is one of the vice-captains alongside Maro Itoje, will steer the ship at the Olympic Stadium. Ford won the No. 10 jersey over new signing Finn Smith after Marcus Smith was forced to sit out with a calf problem. He will lead the midfield partnership of Dingwall and Henry Slade.

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Tommy Freeman, who had an impressive season with Premier League leaders Northampton, will play his fourth game and first since 2022 on the right wing. He is one of three on the team who started at the back.

Props Joe Marler and Will Stewart were chosen while Ellis Genge and Dan Cole were chosen as substitutes. Roots is set to fill a huge slot, sitting in the back row number six, the jersey worn by Courtney Laws before his retirement after the World Cup. Ben Earl keeps his place at number eight and Sam Underhill will play in the open side.

Despite never losing to Italy in their last 30 matches, England do not assume they will win this time, according to Borthwick: “After a week of excellent preparation in Girona, we are looking forward to the challenge of facing Italy in Rome.” “They are a dangerous team, with some talented ball-carriers and players who like to find space. We will need to make good decisions, maintain our discipline, and maintain a level of intensity in our performance from whistle to whistle.”

Before joining Exeter and becoming a standout player there, Roots played for the Maori All Blacks and spent two seasons with the Ospreys.

England: steward; Freeman, Slade, Dingwall, Daly; Ford Mitchell. Marler, George (Captain), Stuart, Itoje, Chisum, Roots, Underhill, Earl.

Replacements: Dunn, Genji, Cole, Coles, Cunningham South, Kerr, F. Smith, V. Waboso