Chandler Cunningham-South is relishing every minute of the Six Nations maelstrom as he prepares to play a part in England’s daunting clash with back-to-back Grand Slam chasers Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.

Cunningham-South’s gamble in leaving New Zealand, where he had lived since the age of four, to return to the UK two years ago has paid off handsomely with his ascendancy to the full England squad for the first time this year.

His debut off the bench in the opening win over Italy, and subsequent appearances against both Wales and Scotland, have appeared to make the Harlequins flanker an integral part of head coach Steve Borthwick’s long-term plans.

“It has been a really big step up for me and I think I have done all right,” said Cunningham-South. “I think I am the youngest in the squad and I have been taken under a few people’s wings.

“I like it. Especially when we were up in Edinburgh getting off the bus – all the heckling and yelling. That sort of stuff motivates me and gives me an extra bit of energy.

“Twickenham is awesome to play at. You don’t actually realise how big the stadium is until you are on the field looking up. It seems to not stop. It was awesome – so loud, so passionate, a real cool place to play.”

Cunningham-South, who was born in Sidcup, decided to head back over to England to pursue his rugby career after finding his opportunities limited in New Zealand.

But he admits he had big moments of doubt after arriving in the midst of the Covid pandemic and finding himself struck down with the illness more or less immediately.

“I got the opportunity over in England and it all happened pretty quickly,” he added. “It was a weird time because I was stuck inside for 18 days with Covid and I was like, ‘Did I make the right decision?’ But once I had got rid of the Covid and got into training I knew I had done.

“I suppose it’s not meant to be easy. Moving over at that age I was a little homesick at first, but when you are working hard and having fun with new friends it gets pushed to the back of your head and I have been loving every minute of it.”

Cunningham-South initially joined the London Irish academy in 2022, representing England in the under-20 Six Nations in the same year, before moving on to Harlequins when Irish folded due to financial issues.

His swift ascent up the England ranks was confirmed when he came off the bench in the narrow opening win over Italy and Cunningham-South believes he is beginning to reap the benefits of his big career decision.

“I needed to develop a lot and that’s why I wanted to be a part of an academy set-up,” he added.

“And there was a definite mindset switch – what it takes to be a professional is very different to when you are playing uni rugby. I didn’t realise how much detail goes into the professional game. It was a bit of a shock, but it’s been good.”

England head coach Steve Borthwick hopes fly-half Marcus Smith could be fit to return to action in the Guinness Six Nations clash against Ireland at Twickenham.

Harlequins star Smith has sat out all three of England’s games so far with a calf problem suffered on a pre-tournament training camp.

Borthwick also feels Northampton scrum-half Alex Mitchell could be back in action before the end of the Six Nations, having missed the defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield with a knee issue.

“I am very hopeful that Marcus will be available for selection for this latter part of the tournament,” Borthwick said, quoted in several national newspapers.

“We have got positive news on Alex Mitchell’s injury, we are hopeful he will feature in the latter part of this tournament – whether that’s the next game, we are not sure, but we are hopeful he will be available as well.”

Following Saturday’s 30-21 Calcutta Cup loss in Edinburgh, the England squad are set to regroup in York for training.

Borthwick is expecting a response as the squad prepare to head back to Twickenham in the build-up to the showdown with Grand Slam contenders Ireland on March 9.

He said: “What’s going to be interesting to me and what I want when we debrief the players, is that after the first 20 minutes on Saturday – why did we go and play in a manner that was not the way we had played the first 20?

“What changed? What in the thought processes altered to try and do something different?

“I will only be able to understand that fully once we have talked to the players and listened to them about how it was on the grass.”

Jamie George conceded England were “not good enough” in their Calcutta Cup defeat to Scotland but the captain remained adamant they were heading in the right direction overall under Steve Borthwick.

The Red Rose lost 30-21 at Murrayfield on Saturday, bringing to an end their unbeaten start to this year’s Guinness Six Nations campaign after narrow wins away to Italy and at home to Wales.

England had arrived in Edinburgh having won eight of their previous nine matches, with their only setback in that run being the agonising World Cup semi-final defeat by eventual winners South Africa in October.

George understood the negative reaction to losing the Calcutta Cup match for a fourth year in succession – the first time that had happened since 1896. However, the 33-year-old rejected the suggestion that talk of English progress since last summer had been overblown.

“If you look at our run of form over the last nine/10 games, we’ve won a lot of them,” George pointed out.

“If you look at the more global picture of where we are as a team and how we are progressing as a team, if you take a step back and look at it as a whole, there are a lot of positive signs.

“Do we need to get better? Absolutely. Are we doing everything we can to do that? Yes.”

George felt England gave a snapshot of their potential in the opening quarter at Murrayfield, when George Furbank’s try helped them open up a 10-0 lead and knock the Scots out of their stride.

However, he knows they fell out of the game all too easily thereafter as Duhan Van Der Merwe scored a hat-trick to turn the game heavily in the hosts’ favour before a 67th minute score from England substitute Immanuel Feyi-Waboso reduced the deficit to nine points.

“The foundations are good but as players we need to execute the gameplan better,” said George. “We knew it would be difficult coming up here, with the history that goes into the game, but we weren’t good enough.

“One thing that hopefully the fans saw in the first 20 minutes of the game is a blueprint for how we want to play as a team. Now it’s about our ability to do it for 80 minutes.

“There will be things that we look back on and go, ‘that’s what English rugby needs to be about, that’s what this team needs to be about going forward’.

“I think we saw a lot of that in the first 20 minutes but I didn’t see it in the second 20 and the contrast will be pretty clear when we look back at it.

“It’s a huge learning for us. We’re a young team excited to learn and we need to learn fast going ahead to the Ireland game.”

George courageously led England into the Murrayfield showdown just over a week after losing his mother Jane following a short battle with lung cancer.

Asked if it was important for him to get a couple of days off to take stock before returning to camp to prepare for the home match against Ireland a week on Saturday, the hooker said: “Yes, I guess so.

“We’re assembling again on Wednesday. It’s important for everyone to get some time off in these breaks. Test rugby can be pretty cruel at times and we saw that today.

“I think it’s important for everyone to spend some time with their families.”

Despite Saturday’s setback, George was already looking forward to hosting Grand Slam-chasing Ireland.

“The fact we are back at Twickenham is very exciting to me,” he said. “We’ve spoken a lot about the record we want to create at Twickenham and how hard a place it needs to be for opposition to come to.

“That’s very much going to be our focus. Ireland are a great team, we know that, but we’re going to be a very tough team to beat at Twickenham.”

Scotland talisman Finn Russell is unfazed by the prospect of being targeted by England’s new blitz defence in Saturday’s Calcutta Cup showdown at Murrayfield.

The Red Rose have adopted a more aggressive approach for this year’s Guinness Six Nations after highly-regarded defence coach Felix Jones joined Steve Borthwick’s backroom team in the wake of helping South Africa win the World Cup. 

England are expected to try to swarm stand-off Russell and his midfield colleagues in an effort to neutralise Scotland, but the 31-year-old has no issue with the possibility of being singled out.

“It’s probably similar to a lot of teams in that the 10s are the key players in attack,” said co-captain Russell. “I’m not sure what England are going to do – if they are going to fire out the line and try to take me out or shut me down from the outside.

“That is something we will have to figure out in the game. We will have to be able to adapt, with myself and Sione (Tuipulotu) and Huw (Jones) being on the same page and having Blair (Kinghorn) out wide as another option.

“Although the 10 controls a lot of the attack, it is not just down to me to create things. We will be looking to other boys to get away from them.”

Scotland were tamed the last time they came up against a Jones-inspired blitz defence when they lost 18-3 to South Africa at the World Cup in September, but Russell insists they have learned from that encounter.

“We have looked back and talked about that game, and obviously looked at England’s first two games of this campaign,” said Russell. “I think our learnings from the World Cup were not to go into our shells if we do feel the pressure.

“There were chances in that game against South Africa that we probably never saw on the pitch. Under pressure we probably went into our shell a little bit.

“Tomorrow we just need to have belief in ourselves and trust the work we have put in over the last six months to a year.

“At times we will be under pressure and it will be tough, but we can fall back to what we have done building up to this game.

“We can have belief and confidence in ourselves and hopefully we can take the chances that will be out there.”

After Russell lost his first three Calcutta Cup matches, including a 61-21 defeat at Twickenham in 2017, the Scots have won each of the last three meetings and have lost only one of the last six.

“With us and England, we have been progressing and over the last few years they have potentially not been as good as they can be,” said Russell. “But the World Cup showed how good they can be, getting to the semi-finals.

“Obviously they have won their first two games of this campaign so they are getting back to where they should be. They are one of the best teams in the world.

“We can’t look back at the last few games and think it has turned in our favour. Every time we play England, it is always a huge challenge and we have got to be at our best to be able to beat them.”

Gregor Townsend says Scotland’s sole focus is on winning their “biggest game of the season” against England this weekend and maintaining their recent dominance of the Calcutta Cup.

The Scots go into Saturday’s showdown with their bitter rivals knowing they will almost certainly require a victory to stay in contention for the Guinness Six Nations title after their controversial defeat by France last time out.

Townsend is adamant that any lingering injustice from ‘trygate’ a fortnight ago has been parked and that any talk of contending for the title can remain firmly on the backburner until after their high-stakes encounter with Steve Borthwick’s side.

“When you’re coming in off the back of a defeat, you have to bounce back with a victory,” said Townsend, when asked on Thursday how the France defeat has left his side’s title prospects.

“You’re not really thinking about the championship. We’ll see where we are on Saturday.

“The full focus is on this game because it’s our most important game of the season.

“It’s the most important game for our supporters and we also play for a trophy, in amongst the Triple Crown and other trophies.

“But this is one that we’re focused on more than the others. That probably shouldn’t be the case, but it is.

“It’s history. It’s emotion. We’ve seen the impact this game has on Scottish supporters when we do manage to get a victory in this fixture. That’ll drive us on Saturday.”

Having beaten England only three times in 27 attempts between 1990 and 2018, the Scots now find themselves going into this weekend’s fixture on the back of a three-game winning run and having lost only one of their last six meetings with their old foes.

Townsend, who was accustomed to regular defeats against England in his time as a player, admits his team’s recent burst of Calcutta Cup success has given them increased belief going into Saturday’s match.

“Yes, for sure,” he said. “The game in 2018 (Scotland’s first win over England in a decade) has certainly given the players confidence when they’ve taken on England in the last few games.

“But what’s most relevant is the game you’ve just played, the things you have to work on to be a better team, and the threats that England bring.

“This England team is different to the one we faced 12 months ago but ultimately it’s just about delivering in the 80 minutes on the day.”

Townsend has made three changes to the side that started the 20-16 defeat by France, with Glasgow wing Kyle Steyn returning after missing Les Bleus game when his wife went into labour and Toulouse full-back Blair Kinghorn back after sitting out the first two matches with a knee injury.

Kyle Rowe and Harry Paterson, who deputised in the absence of the two experienced backs, drop out of the squad altogether.

The most notable change is in the back row where Edinburgh flanker Jamie Ritchie, who recently lost the captaincy and then was then left out of the 23 for the France game, returns to the number six jersey in place of Matt Fagerson, who is dropped from the squad.

“Jamie has really accepted the challenge that was there about a month ago that there’s increased competition in the back-row and for that reason he was no longer going to be captain,” explained Townsend.

“But since that conversation he’s played two games for Edinburgh and one for Scotland in Cardiff and he’s played well.

“We believe this game will suit his strengths and his experience he can bring to the team as well will be a boost.”

Dan Cole was given the green light to continue his England career by wife Isobel having decided he did not want to join the contingent of players retiring after the World Cup.

Cole took stock of his Test future after helping England finish third at last autumn’s global showpiece knowing that Courtney Lawes, Jonny May and Ben Youngs had already played their final international games.

The 36-year-old prop has re-established himself in the front row under Steve Borthwick after spending three years in Red Rose exile and is eager to make the most of his time at the top.

“My wife is very understanding that I haven’t got many games left. It was a joint decision,” Cole said.

“She understands that with Steve and the coaches that she knows from Leicester, it is a very good team environment and place to be. I won’t be doing it forever, so enjoy it.”

When asked if the current Six Nations would be his last campaign with England, Cole replied: “I haven’t made up my mind. I haven’t thought about it so far, we’ll see how it goes.

“After the World Cup I thought about everything really. I had a conversation with Steve and he said to me after Courtney had announced his retirement at a press conference ‘are you planning any press conferences or announcements?’.

“I said that ‘I’ve got to speak to my wife and to you Steve because if you’re not going to pick me then I will’. He said that I’d like you to have the option (to play on). I was like fair enough because I owe Steve a lot. And here I am!

“It’s one of those things where you never want to give up, but at the same time you can understand why boys with families do because international rugby is a tough environment to be in. It’s intense.”

Cole will be involved in next Saturday’s visit to Murrayfield where England will be aiming to register a third win of this year’s Six Nations, keeping them on course for the Grand Slam.

The Leicester tighthead’s scrummaging expertise has led to his Test resurgence and he believes the set-piece is more vital than it has ever been.

“Tournament by tournament in international rugby, there are less scrums but they are of higher importance, which is why teams don’t want to give an inch there,” Cole said.

“You have seen in the first couple of weeks of the Six Nations they can sometimes be a bit messy and slow.

“I know the reaction to that over the first couple of weeks of the Six Nations hasn’t been great, but obviously it can be a massive turning point in the game.

“It’s tough because it’s so important and every scrum is heightened. You are playing international rugby and so you are not going to be playing against any mugs, everyone knows what they’re doing and everyone is good.”

Immanuel Feyi-Waboso knew the time to choose between England and Wales would come but not quite so soon.

Less than a year after helping Taunton Titans escape relegation from National League One, the 21-year-old Exeter wing made his Test debut in the Guinness Six Nations.

Whether he would commit to England or Wales became a matter of urgency when he began shredding defences for the Chiefs in his first season in the Gallagher Premiership.

 

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Born and raised in Cardiff, he qualifies for England through his grandmother, and the tug of war for his allegiance began when he was first called by Steve Borthwick in November.

By January, his mind was made up and he was picked in Borthwick’s squad for the Six Nations with his first cap against Italy following soon after.

“The first conversation I had with Steve was after Northampton away and that wasn’t even a good game for me. That was a terrible game for me!” Feyi-Waboso said.

“He rang me after that and said I’m on his radar. I was really shocked at the call and I kind of thought he was just saying I’m in his mind, but obviously I’m here now.

“It’s always been something to think about. I moved to England. A lot of my family are English.

“My grandmother [Margaret Spence Taylor] is English, lives in Gloucester. My dad [Andrew] is half-English and my mum’s Nigerian.

“As soon as I got into England it was a decision to think about, but I thought it would be a lot further in the future.

“I blocked out a lot of the noise (around the decision). I have a lot of good people around me, like family. They helped my decision and definitely didn’t force my hand. It was definitely my decision.”

Feyi-Waboso’s availability was considered a formality by Wales, but they underestimated the strength of his English ties and determination to study medicine.

Despite being awarded three A stars for his ‘A’ levels, he was unable to secure a place at Cardiff University and having then enrolled at Aston University, the financial collapse of his club Wasps placed him in limbo.

The Chiefs provided him with a new home and a place at Exeter University, where he is able to pursue his true calling.

“I enjoy learning, it’s what I enjoyed even before rugby. If I wasn’t playing rugby, my ideal situation would be just to stay in uni, keep learning, keep going,” he said.

“But obviously being a doctor is a career of constant learning. You don’t really stop. You do five years in uni, then you have two foundation years, then specialise … it’s not boring.

“I feel like learning is now habitual. It’s just something that I really want to do – become a doctor.”

Balancing his medical course with the demands of playing for Exeter and England takes careful planning, and he is being assisted by team doctor Katy Hornby.

“I have an exam in a couple of weeks. So I might have to go back for that, do the exam, then come back to the Six Nations,” he said.

“I also have an exam three days after we come back from France so I’ll be revising. It can be a lot to think about, but you make timetables and you manage – you do manage.

“And there’s a lot of help around – I’m going to do some exam prep with the [RFU] doc.”

England are ready to thrust Manu Tuilagi straight into their Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland following his recovery from a groin problem.

Tuilagi has been added to Steve Borthwick’s squad for their fallow week training camp in London having missed the opening two Guinness Six Nations rounds because of the injury sustained in December.

If the 32-year-old centre plays at Murrayfield on February 24 it will be his first appearance for nine weeks, but England are confident he would rise to the occasion.

Defence coach Felix Jones said: “Manu had little bit of a run around out there today (Wednesday). It wasn’t anything too intense but he looked good.

“He’s done it a number of times where he’s come back from injury with low levels of game time but still been able to perform at a very high level. Experience accounts for a lot in those situations.”

If Tuilagi proves his fitness in training over the coming days, Borthwick must decide whether to break up the centre partnership of Fraser Dingwall and Henry Slade that started the victories over Italy and Wales or confine him to a bench role.

Tuilagi provides the ability to punch over the gainline currently lacked by the back division and England know that Scotland will build much of their attack around their own muscular carrier Sione Tuipulotu.

The prospect of Ollie Lawrence being available for the round three showdown in Edinburgh is less certain as he overcomes a hip injury.

The Bath powerhouse, another midfield option, was involved in training on Wednesday and a clearer picture of his readiness will emerge over the coming days.

Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie and lock George Martin are both in contention against Scotland after being added to Borthwick’s 36-man training squad.

Cowan-Dickie was forced to withdraw from the original Six Nations squad after an undisclosed medical condition materialised when he was on club duty for Sale.

His availability will relieve the pressure on captain Jamie George, whose workload has been increased by the lack of experienced alternatives in the position.

Martin’s fitness will be welcomed by England, who benefited from his menacing display against South Africa in the semi-final of last autumn’s World Cup – his most recent international appearance.

The 22-year-old had tweaked his knee, ruling him out of the start of the Six Nations, but will look to secure a place in the second or back row against Scotland.

Jamie George insisted England are ready to take on the Guinness Six Nations’ big hitters after Wales were dispatched 16-14 at Twickenham.

England fell 14-5 behind but fought back through a Fraser Dingwall try and two George Ford penalties – the second the decisive kick in the 72nd minute – to make it two wins in as many matches.

Only Ireland also remain on course for the Grand Slam but the competition is about to get harder for Steve Borthwick’s men with Scotland next up in Edinburgh before closing with clashes against France and Andy Farrell’s defending champions.

“There is belief. We have got a good opportunity to rest up a bit in the fallow week and then focus on getting better because we know we are going to need to get better going up to Murrayfield,” George said.

“The foundations that we have laid have allowed us to believe in what we are doing and believe in the England way. We want to continue what we are doing and keep growing.”

When asked about facing Scotland, France and Ireland, George said: “I don’t think it is a huge leap.

“Obviously we have got three difficult games coming up but I don’t think we are in a place to say it needs to be a quantum leap to get a load better.

“We are two from two, we have done well and we know we have got a huge amount of growth left in the squad so our focus is on making sure we optimise that.”

England showed resilience to claw their way in front despite conceding the half-time penalty count 6-0 and seeing Ollie Chessum and Ethan Roots sent to the sin bin, the overlapping yellow cards reducing them to 13 players for five minutes.

“This is a team that stays in the fight and a team that finds a way. Were there improvements on Italy last weekend? Yes, I think there were,” head coach Borthwick said.

“The work we’re doing each day is paying dividends. But the biggest lesson here is the trait the players are developing in themselves, which is one that stays in the fight.

“I always sensed from the players there was a confidence to find the way to get the result.

“Prior to the World Cup we identified that England’s second-half performances had deteriorated since 2018. Last weekend and here we’ve seen it consistently improve.”

While England have built a 100 per cent record, Wales have headed in the opposite direction with losses to the Red Rose and Scotland by a combined total of just three points.

Had they shown more composure in the second half, they might have registered a first victory at Twickenham since 2015.

“It’s pretty disappointing really. I’m proud of the performance and the effort of the players out there, but we’re disappointed we didn’t come away with the win,” head coach Warren Gatland said.

“It’s part of the journey we’re on in terms of developing as a team. I said to the players we’re not there yet but we’re going to be a bloody good team going forward.

“And this was part of that process in terms of learning about game management. I’m really proud of the effort.

“We felt really good at half-time and didn’t feel under pressure. On a few occasions we didn’t get the rub of the green in the second half and that’s rugby.”

Fly-half Paolo Garbisi believes Italy are ready for the “most difficult match in world rugby” and expects facing Ireland to be twice as tough as taking on England.

The Azzurri meet the reigning Guinness Six Nations champions in Dublin on Sunday after beginning their campaign with a narrow 27-24 loss to Steve Borthwick’s side in Rome.

Ireland are overwhelming favourites for victory at a sold-out Aviva Stadium to keep themselves on course for back-to-back Grand Slam titles following a five-try demolition of France.

Montpellier man Garbisi, who acknowledges his country have been underdogs in almost every match since joining the championship in 2000, is braced for the ultimate test.

“Of course we were pretty proud of our performance (against England),” he told the PA news agency.

“We knew that that wasn’t perfect, otherwise probably we would have won that game, so a lot of points to improve on and to work on.

“But we know that this week is going to be probably twice harder. We know what’s coming and I think we’re ready.

“I think it’s the most difficult match in world rugby right now. We play one of the best sides at their place.

“It’s the first time they play at home in this Six Nations so it’s probably the most difficult thing to do in rugby this time.”

Italy have never won a Six Nations match on Irish soil, with their only championship success in the fixture a 22-15 Stadio Olimpico victory in 2013.

Pundits and bookmakers give the Azzurri, who endured a miserable World Cup campaign before Gonzalo Quesada replaced Kieran Crowley as head coach, little chance of changing that statistic this weekend.

“We try not to put that much attention on those things,” said Garbisi.

“I think it’s 20 years that people don’t give us chances so we don’t really care about that. We try to prepare as well as we can so we can perform as well as we can.

“We know that they’re very good in everything they do: attack, defence, kicking game. But I think what impressed me the most are the rucks, how they can reach the rucks to slow the ball down for the opposition – that’s something they’re really good at.

“If we can keep the pace of our breakdowns quick, we could manage to put them in trouble.”

Garbisi will be pitted against rival number 10 Jack Crowley this weekend after former Ireland captain Johnny Sexton retired following the World Cup.

The 23-year-old feels the departure of the influential Sexton has left a void but thinks 24-year-old Crowley has a “very, very bright future”.

“It’s quite a difference because the leadership that Sexton could provide to their team was amazing,” said Garbisi.

“I think it was a different team when he was playing and when he was not.

“Crowley is a very good number 10 and he’s quite young – I think he’s my age – so I think he has a very, very bright future to lead Ireland forward.”

Italy have lost back-row forwards Sebastian Negri and Lorenzo Cannone to injury but mercurial full-back Ange Capuozzo is back from illness.

“We hope he’s going to make a big difference for us,” Garbisi said of Capuozzo.

“But it’s not only on him, it’s on us as well to try to give him good balls to attack and to put him in good spaces where he can have one on ones against defenders so he can use his feet and his quickness.”

Jamie George has urged his England team to put their passion on full display when one of rugby’s great rivalries is renewed at Twickenham on Saturday.

Wales are the opponents in round two of the Guinness Six Nations and new captain George is determined to match their zeal for the jersey when he leads the team out on home soil for the first time.

England are hoping to improve engagement with their supporters through changes to the matchday experience at Twickenham, such as increasing the length of the players’ walk through the crowds from their bus to the changing room.

On their last appearance at the ground in August they were booed off by their own fans having lost to Fiji for the first time in their history in a deflating Rugby World Cup send-off.

George is keen for England to find their own inspiration rather than looking to emulate Celtic fury, but he knows that results will ultimately shape the relationship between team and supporters.

“We don’t want to replicate anything, we want to do things our way. We can build emotion and motivation through different ways,” the Saracens hooker said.

“Something we have talked about a lot as a group is passion and not being afraid to show passion. I’ve certainly been encouraging of that this week.

“If people want to use that passion and emotion, as long as we are controlled and clear about what we are doing rugby-wise, I don’t see why we shouldn’t do that.

“We don’t want to replicate anyone else’s emotion – we are never going to try to do things another team’s way. We want to be authentic.”

England have lost 50 per cent of their Six Nations matches at Twickenham over the last three years as part of a significant period of underachievement in the tournament pre-dating Steve Borthwick’s arrival as head coach.

“First and foremost, we’ve identified that our win rate there hasn’t been good enough. The most intimidating atmospheres come off the back of the most intimidating teams,” George said.

“If we want to be the the type of team we want to be and create an intimidating environment to play in at Twickenham then we have to be the sort of team that we want to be.

“I think there’s going to be a great buy-in and a great atmosphere at Twickenham. Now the responsibility is on us as players to go and back that up.”

Borthwick has named an unchanged matchday 23 to the one announced for the 27-24 victory over Italy after prop Ellis Genge recovered from a foot injury to take his place on the bench.

Wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso made his Test debut in Rome on Saturday and he continues as a replacement against the nation of his birth.

The 21-year-old wing sensation has pledged allegiance to England despite being born and raised in Cardiff, prompting Wales boss Warren Gatland to remark that his decision had not gone down well across the border.

“Manny came on and did really well against Italy. He has been an incredibly calm, composed and mature character,” Borthwick said.

“He’s trained very well and in the little time I’ve known him he doesn’t seem to get fazed. I only have good things to say about him.”

England insist Immanuel Feyi-Waboso is ready to face Wales after Steve Borthwick selected an unchanged team for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash at Twickenham.

Feyi-Waboso made his Test debut as a late replacement in the round one victory over Italy and he continues on the bench for the visit of Warren Gatland’s men.

The 21-year-old wing sensation has pledged allegiance to England despite being born and raised in Cardiff, prompting Wales boss Warren Gatland to remark that his decision had not gone down well across the border.

Borthwick had no hesitation giving Feyi-Waboso, who has been in electric form for Exeter this season, the opportunity to win his second cap.

“Not from my point of view. He came on and did really well against Italy. He has been an incredibly calm, composed and mature character,” Borthwick said.

“He’s trained very well and in the little time I’ve known him he doesn’t seem to get fazed. I only have good things to say about him.”

Jamie George, who leads England out at Twickenham for the first time, also believes the rookie will rise to the occasion if he steps off the bench.

“Manny is a very confident guy. He understands our defensive system because it’s pretty similar to the one at Exeter, which is beneficial. He isn’t fazed by anything,” George said.

Borthwick has retained the same starting XV and bench originally announced for the 27-24 victory in Italy following prop Ellis Genge’s recovery from a foot injury.

Genge was named on the bench for the Stadio Olimpico opener only to be ruled out on the morning of the game, but he has been passed fit for the visit of Warren Gatland’s men.

Ben Obano deputised at loosehead in Genge’s absence and now drops out of the matchday 23 altogether.

The most recent occasion England named an unchanged side was under Eddie Jones for the 2019 World Cup final against South Africa in Japan, which they lost 32-12.

“While last weekend’s performance was far from perfect, it was a promising start,” Borthwick said.

“It was a really promising start for the less experienced guys and the younger guys.

“There’s a blend of leadership and experience. It’s important to keep that blend and build cohesion and continuity.

“The players will get better and better the more they are playing together.”

Five players made their Test debuts against Italy – Ethan Roots, Fraser Dingwall, Chandler Cunningham-South, Fin Smith and Feyi-Waboso – and have the opportunity to press their claim for ongoing selection.

Roots was named man of the match in Rome after a blockbusting display at blindside flanker.

England rookie Chandler Cunningham-South was being mentored for weeks by Richard Hill without knowing he was talking to a World Cup winner.

Cunningham-South made a strong debut off the bench in Saturday’s 27-24 victory over Italy, becoming one of two flankers to win their first cap in the Guinness Six Nations opener alongside Ethan Roots.

As England team manger with the additional role of talent identification for the pathway, Hill has influenced the rise of both players as well as the likes of Sam Underhill and Tom Curry.

Hill’s keen eye for future Test stars is valued highly by head coach Steve Borthwick, who revealed when naming his Six Nations squad last month that “if Richard tells me to track a back-row forward, I’m listening”.

 

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Cunningham-South had Hill’s approval when on England Under-20 duty but presumed he was speaking to a random enthusiast rather than one of the country’s greatest flankers and a veteran of 71 Tests, including the triumphant 2003 World Cup final.

 

“There was no doubt that, as an 18-year-old, Chandler’s physicality of carry was not quite the norm for his age compared to others that I was watching,” said Hill, who was initially alerted to him by his first club London Irish.

“He was doing fantastically well so I made sure that I connected with him at the Under-20s training sessions.

“I carried on chatting to him and then after a number of meetings that I’d had with him, Jonathan Fisher, Irish’s academy coach, decided to ring me after a chance meeting.

“John said that Chandler has just told him how he turns out to Under-20s training and ‘a couple of times this guy’s come up to me and you know, he’s had a chat about my game’.

“’He seems to understand how to play and he’s got some reasonable ideas. You know, he sounds like he knows what he’s talking about’. So yeah, that was me!

“He found out probably three months ago that I played in the World Cup. Chandler’s not that fussed about what’s gone on in the past.

“He wanted to know why I didn’t tell him. I said it had no bearing on what we’re trying to achieve, which was him, not me.”

While Cunningham-South’s 14-minute cameo against Italy was rich with promise, Roots was close to the finished article in being named man of the match following a superb display at blindside flanker.

Borthwick first became aware of Roots when he was coaching Leicester against the Ospreys but it was when Hill showed him footage of the 26-year-old cage fighter playing for Exeter during last autumn’s World Cup that he really took notice.

Fast forward five months and the Chiefs forward is part of Borthwick’s England rebuild, providing vital carrying muscle to a side that is short on defence-busting power.

“If there is someone of interest for the future then I’d make Steve aware – and Ethan was one of those players,” Hill said.

“I knew he had a skill set that would interest us – he can carry the ball, carrying into contact, heavy contact, and defensively physical at the breakdown.

“He has been physical and consistent in terms of the performances he put in since joining Exeter this season.”

Roots is expected to continue in the number six jersey for Saturday’s visit of Wales to Twickenham, with Borthwick naming his team on Thursday afternoon.

Freddie Steward has called on England to win back the support of Twickenham as they launch a new era with Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash against Wales.

In their most recent home fixture, Steve Borthwick’s side were booed by fans after falling 30-22 to Fiji in the build-up to the 2023 World Cup – the first time they had ever lost to the Islanders.

Keen to dispel the funeral atmosphere last seen at Twickenham, Jamie George’s England are determined to reconnect with their support by delivering results and displaying ambition and passion.

Fans rallied behind the team during their march to third place at the World Cup and flocked to Rome for Saturday’s narrow win against Italy, but Steward knows it is the backing they receive in south west London that is critical.

“Being back at home is also synonymous with us being a new group,” said the Leicester full-back.

“This is essentially a fresh start. We have had our World Cup and we are on the start of a new cycle with fresh faces, new coaches. This is our chance to draw a line in the sand.

“As players when you play for England you are expected to win and when you don’t win, understandably you don’t have the fans on your side and there was a bit of that in the warm-ups to the World Cup.

“I would never blame the fans and say they need to lift us. They do that on the back of what we do, so the responsibility is ours.

“During the World Cup when we got to the semi-final it felt like that is what it can be like. As players we want that all the time but we have to put the performances on the field to earn that.

“The fans are the heartbeat of what we do. We want Twickenham to erupt and we want it to be a place we want to go and play in front of our fans and represent them.”

England’s tactics during the first year of Borthwick’s reign were conservative as he tried to shape a side that could challenge at the World Cup just nine months after replacing Eddie Jones as head coach.

The focus on kicking and stats-based approach turned off many supporters, but at the Stadio Olimpico there was greater enterprise and a willingness to attack from their own half.

“There’s the mentality side of it in terms of being braver by attacking further from the line and trying to challenge the opposition, giving them something to think about,” Steward said.

“We were probably guilty early doors of being too one-dimensional in terms of teams knowing what we were going to do.

“But hopefully by evolving the attack it will ask a few more questions of the opposition. The more time we’ve had together, it helps.

“For us as players, we want to play winning rugby. Whatever style that is, we want to win Test matches, we want to win tournaments and have successful campaigns.”

Jamie George has urged England to draw inspiration from their cricketing counterparts by cultivating their own form of ‘Bazball’.

Steve Borthwick’s side launch a new era when they face Italy in the Guinness Six Nations on Saturday with George leading a side containing two uncapped starters and three more debutants on the bench.

George is at the helm for the first time and the Saracens hooker is stirred by the success of captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum in developing a winning cricket team that plays without fear.

The style has been dubbed Bazball, referencing McCullum’s nickname, and George believes that by adopting similar principles his England can also flourish as the next World Cup cycle begins at the Stadio Olimpico.

“I’m a cricket fan so why would I not take inspiration from what Ben Stokes is doing with the England cricket team?” George said.

“You look at the influence Ben Stokes has on young players, allowing them to go out and perform the way they do, creating an environment to allow that. It’s exactly the model that we want.

“I’m not saying it’s going to be perfect, it’s never going to be perfect. But at the same time, Ben is someone who I take a huge amount of inspiration from.

“I want that connection with the fans. I want people to love coming to watch England play, for plenty of reasons – the result being one, how we play the game being another.

“Also the amount of fight and character that we show, the amount of pride and passion that we play with.

“Ben Stokes talks about being entertainers and we want to entertain people, of course we do, but we want to do it in the right way, we want to do it in the England way.

“They’ve managed to find a way to do that with Bazball so we will find our own way of doing it.”

England have lost the opening match in the previous four Six Nations and George is determined for them to end that sequence by delivering an emphatic victory over opponents they have beaten in all 30 previous meetings.

“We want to make a statement and we also want to make it very clear what this England team is about going forward. And we want to give the England fans plenty to shout about,” he said.

George knows the advice he will give to the uncapped Fraser Dingwall, Ethan Roots, Chandler Cunningham-South, Fin Smith and Immanuel Feyi-Waboso also stands for himself when he lead the side out for the first time.

“It’s going to be quite an emotional day,” he said. “I’m quite an emotional person anyway. I’ve got some family flying over – and some family who aren’t able to fly.

“The obvious statement is that it’s going to be a dream come true. I don’t think you can ever prepare yourself for moments like that.

“As ever I just want to be in the moment as much as I can and soak it all up. It’s a similar message to what I’ll be telling the guys having their first cap.

“That was the best piece of advice I got before my first cap because it goes like that (clicks fingers). The anthem… it just flies by.

“I want to really try and soak it all up, take it all in and then put in a good performance off the back of it.”

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