Henry Slade omitted from England World Cup squad

By Sports Desk August 07, 2023

Henry Slade has been left out of England’s World Cup squad in an unexpected selection twist from head coach Steve Borthwick.

Slade has been an automatic pick in the midfield for much of the last six years, appearing in 30 of the last 37 Tests since the 2019 tournament, but has been overlooked for the 33-man group.

Instead the versatile Exeter centre has lost out to Joe Marchant, who covers wing as well as 13 and played his way into the squad after emerging from the wreckage of Saturday’s defeat by Wales with his reputation enhanced.

The exclusion of Alex Dombrandt means that Billy Vunipola is the only specialist number eight bound for France next month.

Dombrandt started every match in the Six Nations but was unable to stamp his authority on the jersey and compounded his humdrum form with an unimpressive display in Cardiff.

Vunipola is chosen despite not having played since April because of two knee surgeries and missing the entire Championship after being frozen out by Borthwick on form grounds.

Lewis Ludlam, Ben Earl and Tom Curry cover number eight and are present among a large contingent of versatile back five forwards that includes rookie Leicester duo Ollie Chessum and George Martin.

Other big names to miss out are wings Jonny May and Joe Cokanasiga, both of whom played in the World Cup four years ago.

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    A crowd of up to 50,000 is expected to watch the Red Roses continue their Grand Slam quest in their first match at the venue since last year’s rollercoaster victory over France that clinched the title.

    England have averaged 47 points a game in their three wins to date but Hunt wants the attack that has been enhanced under head coach John Mitchell to take another step forward.

    “We just want it to click for us. There are 47,000 in Twickenham from what I have been told and we want to put on a show,” said the Gloucester-Hartpury scrum-half, who is enjoying a Test resurgence since missing out on the 2022 World Cup.

    “The best is yet to come for us, I truly believe that. We’ve spoken about the discipline and the penalties, but also our one-team attack – every time we train it is starting to look better and better.

    “I just want it to click so you can all see what we are seeing in training because we’ve not got there yet.

    “I’m really enjoying the way we are trying to play, how positive everything is and the way we are trying to go after defences. It’s the way I want to play rugby.”

    England have a 100 per cent record in the tournament despite seeing Sarah Beckett and Amy Cokayne sent off against Italy and Scotland, respectively.

    The red cards have fed into the ‘game is unfair’ mantra adopted under Mitchell as the Kiwi looks to turn the game’s dominant force into world champions by preparing them for moments when circumstances have conspired against them.

    Lydia Thompson’s dismissal for a high tackle on Portia Woodman that contributed to England’s defeat by New Zealand in the 2022 World Cup final has given Mitchell’s message powerful affirmation.

    “When Mitch put a picture up of Lyds and said ‘the game isn’t fair’, it hit so many of us in our hearts because Lyds is the most unbelievable human and obviously that moment was tough for everyone,” Hunt said.

    “I’m not saying it was the right or wrong decision, but sometimes the game is unfair and when you go down to 14 in a final you have to fight your way out of that.

    “If I’m in the thick of these decisions all the time and every time I don’t quite agree with something, that sentence genuinely rings true. I think, ‘game is unfair – move on’.”

  • Heather Knight says counties’ frustrations hails ‘progress’ for women’s cricket Heather Knight says counties’ frustrations hails ‘progress’ for women’s cricket

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    The move away from the current regional setup to a fully professionalised top flight from 2025, aligning with first-class counties in the process, is a major step forward for women’s cricket but not everyone has made the initial cut.

    Durham, Essex, Hampshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Somerset, Surrey and Warwickshire were all successful, but eight other proposals were not. Yorkshire have been approved alongside Glamorgan to be elevated in 2027 and a further expansion to 12 teams is planned.

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    However, ECB chief executive Richard Gould made it clear there was no sense of re-litigating those issues in a process that was focused entirely on elevating women’s cricket to fresh heights.

    “It’s certainly not (about) being punished for past sins, that’s not our role. Our role is to promote the game, not punish,” he said at the launch of a new national tape ball competition, aimed at further broadening the sport’s appeal.

    “It will be disappointing for those venues that either haven’t been selected for tier one at this point or who have been, but perhaps not quite as quickly as they expected.

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    “We were so relieved by the amount of focus, attention and frankly, love, that was being put into the women’s game in those bids.”

    Knight, meanwhile, sees the intensity of the bidding process – and the level of frustration at those who were not approved – as a positive sign given a a relative lack of enthusiasm for female teams earlier in her career.

    “It sounds like there’s some counties disappointed which is a shame but also pretty cool,” she said.

    “When I was playing a long time ago, a lot of counties weren’t interested. So that disappointment is a sign of the progress that has been made.

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    Yorkshire, who have hosted the Northern Diamonds and can now expect their top players to head elsewhere in search of the best – and best-paid – cricket opportunities, had earlier tabled their own statement.

    “Yorkshire County Cricket Club are surprised and disappointed not to be awarded one of the initial Tier 1 women’s teams,” it read.

    “The news is especially frustrating and upsetting for the players and staff at the Northern Diamonds. Our focus is on supporting them through this difficult period and gaining as much clarity on what the future looks like.”

    Simon Phillip, speaking as chair of a Kent side who have hosted the South East Stars in recent seasons, was similarly aggrieved.

    “As the most successful county team in the history of Women’s Cricket, offering the only dedicated women’s performance centre at Beckenham and based in a highly diverse south-east London population of 1.2 million people, the decision is difficult to swallow,” he said.

    “Whilst this decision will take some getting over, we remain committed to women’s and girls’ cricket and are determined to not let it hamper our long-term ambitions.”

    Leicestershire were also vocal about their feelings on missing the boat, claiming “a missed opportunity by the ECB” and saying the club was “crestfallen” not be included.

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    John Mitchell has instructed England to continue playing on the edge despite the disciplinary issues that have marred their Guinness Women’s Six Nations.

    The Red Roses have been shown two red cards in three matches, with number eight Sarah Beckett dismissed in the opener against Italy and hooker Amy Cokayne sent off against Scotland.

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    While Mitchell wants technique to be refined where needed, he views his team’s physicality as an important weapon.

    “I want us to continue to play on the edge, but I also want us to be aware around how we need to change our behaviour,” the Red Roses head coach said.

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    “Early on in the week, when we do more low-key training in the barn inside, we can put crowd noise in. I personally loved it,” he said.

    “It paints a different picture for us. It’s been a new thing that we’ve brought in this week which has raised our game. Hopefully we can put it out on the pitch on Saturday.”

    Packer has been restored at openside for the visit of Ireland, forcing Zoe Aldcroft to move from back row to lock, while Lark Atkin-Davies replaces the suspended Cokayne at hooker.

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