News Update


England World Cup squad: Henry Slade and Alex Dombrandt are out, but Joe Marchant and Theo Dan are in.

Among the significant absences from Steve Borthwick’s 33-man England squad for the Rugby World Cup in France are Henry Slade and Alex Dombrandt.

Joe Marchant is included, while Exeter back Slade, 30, who has featured in the last two World Cups, is not.

Saracens hooker Theo Dan, 22, is selected after making his debut in Saturday’s warm-up loss to Wales, while Billy Vunipola is the sole specialist number eight.

On September 9, England will play Argentina in Marseille.

Forwards in the England squad: Ollie Chessum (Leicester), Dan Cole (Leicester), Tom Curry (Sale), Theo Dan (Saracens), Ben Earl (Saracens), Ellis Genge (Bristol), Jamie George (Saracens), Maro Itoje (Saracens), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Lewis Ludlam (Northampton), Joe Marler (Harlequins), George Martin (Le

Backs: Henry Arundell (Racing 92), Danny Care (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Saracens), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Sale), Ollie Lawrence (Bath), Max Malins (Bristol), Joe Marchant (Stade Francais), Marcus Smith (Harlequins), Freddie Steward (Leicester), Manu Tuilagi (Sale), Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester), Anthony Watson (unattached), Ben Youngs (Leicester).

Who else is participating, and who didn’t?

Borthwick chose 33 players, 17 of whom had previous World Cup experience, and 16 of whom were in the team when England reached the final under Eddie Jones in 2019.

Three players, Courtney Lawes, Dan Cole, and Ben Youngs, will compete in their fourth World Cup and are part of a roster with over 1,400 caps.

Henry Arundell, a versatile back, is the youngest player chosen at the age of 20.

Marchant, who left Harlequins for French club Stade Francais at the end of the Premiership season, was one of the few players to improve England’s World Cup chances in Saturday’s 20-9 loss to Wales.

Debutant back row Tom Pearson, hooker Jamie Blamire, and wing Joe Cokanasiga, on the other hand, struggled in Cardiff and are not in the final group.

Due to Blamire’s unavailability, Dan and Jack Walker will fill in for first-team hooker Jamie George.

Vunipola is chosen despite not playing since April due to a knee injury and not being part of Borthwick’s Six Nations preparations, with Lewis Ludlam, Ben Earl, and Tom Curry available as backups.

“Billy’s been fantastic in this training camp,” Borthwick remarked. “It’s been an honor to work with him and witness how hard he’s worked to recover from his injury.”

“He looks in great shape, as fit as I’ve ever seen him, and his experience will add to this squad.”

Borthwick has a ‘difficult task’ ahead of him.
Borthwick noted at a press conference following the announcement of his squad, “Selecting just 33 players from the breadth of great players we’ve had in our training camps has been quite a challenging task.”

“We believe this 33 has the right combination of experience and young, exciting talent, as well as the positional versatility and playing combinations that we’ll need throughout the tournament.”

Borthwick stated that he had a “personal conversation” with each of the players who did not make the cut, including Slade, to explain his choice.

“There have been a number of difficult decisions because you have to reduce the squad to 33 players and we have a lot of talented players to choose from,” Borthwick explained.

“Henry has been excellent throughout the training camp; he is obviously disappointed, but the message to the players who were not chosen is ‘be ready to come into the squad.'”

“We are aware that there will be adjustments. Previous World Cups have shown that there are bumps and bruises, and the players must change.”

In the pool stage, England will also face Japan, Chile, and Samoa. The event begins on September 8 and concludes on Saturday, October 28.

‘Huge call’ to drop Slade: Chris Jones, BBC rugby union correspondent

Slade, who was an unexpected inclusion in the 2015 Rugby World Cup team, is now facing the disappointment of being left out.

It’s a big decision. Marchant impressed against Wales on Saturday and offers a point of difference with his dynamism and adaptability. Slade has been an ever-present in the midfield for the entirety of the previous World Cup cycle.

Borthwick chose a strong core of players who were in Japan four years ago, so the group is a combination of youth and experience.

While there is depth in some areas, there is very little in others, putting a lot of pressure on players like George at hooker, Maro Itoje at lock, and Vunipola at number eight.

Other key numbers

  • 27 – the average age of England’s World Cup squad.
  • 16 – the number of players yet to play in a World Cup.
  • 122 – the number of caps won by Ben Youngs, the most experienced player in the squad.
  • Seven – the number of Premiership clubs represented.
  • Four – the number of players from French clubs.


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