England will begin rebuilding for the 2027 World Cup when they clash with Italy in Rome on Saturday.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five talking points ahead of the Stadio Olimpico opener.

All change

While picking veteran fly-half George Ford might be an opportunity missed against the Six Nations’ weakest opposition – the inclusion of rookie Fin Smith would have provided a glimpse of the future – Steve Borthwick has shown a willingness to experiment elsewhere. Flanker Ethan Roots and inside centre Fraser Dingwall are given debuts while Smith, exciting wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and back row Chandler Cunningham-South will win their first caps if they step off the bench. Some of the changes have been forced on Borthwick by circumstance but it is still England’s biggest injection of fresh faces in the Six Nations since 2012.

Dingwall’s chance to shine

England have been unable to find a potent, enduring answer to who plays inside centre since Will Greenwood retired in 2004. The next player to be given the opportunity to prove he is the solution is Dingwall, who profits from injuries to Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence to take the number 12 jersey at the Stadio Olimpico and possibly beyond. The Northampton Saint has added three kilos of muscle for this season and plays with greater physicality as a result, especially in defence, but his true skill is an all-rounder who brings out the best in the players around him.

Release the handbrake

England must show greater ambition in attack or the goodwill generated amongst fans by finishing third at the World Cup will be washed away. The simplified, kick-focused, data-driven approach was acceptable for the first year of Borthwick’s reign given the need to pick up the pieces of the Eddie Jones era but a failure to add new layers will lead to unrest in the stands. New captain Jamie George has acknowledged that “you get people on their feet when they see tries being scored” and one of the hopes is that they play with greater freedom outside their own half.

Carrying threats needed

A concern hanging over England’s team selection is the lack of carrying power outside the explosive Ben Earl, who continues at number eight having taken the World Cup by storm. In particular, the backline is short on players who can muscle through heavy traffic in the absence of blockbusting centres Tuilagi and Lawrence. There are plenty of options to grind out yards up front, but few to blast big holes in the defence.

Quesada plots Roman ambush

Italy have a new head coach in Argentinian Gonzalo Quesada, who is expected to tighten up the loose game introduced by his predecessor Kieran Crowley. It helped deliver wins against Wales and Australia but the Azzurri self-destructed at the World Cup with crushing losses to New Zealand and France reversing the progress made in the previous 18 months. Since joining the Six Nations in 2000 Italy have recorded a win rate of only 11 per cent and have yet to defeat England in 30 meetings but traditionally they are at their strongest at the start of the tournament as France found out a year ago when they edged home by the skin of their teeth.

England fly-half Marcus Smith is awaiting scan results on a leg injury sustained in training just five days before the Guinness Six Nations’ opener against Italy.

Steve Borthwick’s squad are on a training camp in Girona and the England head coach is scheduled to announce his starting line-up on Thursday.

England’s Six Nations’ hopes would be given a huge blow if Smith is ruled out as fellow fly-half Owen Farrell is ineligible for selection following his move from Saracens to French side Racing 92 last week.

Farrell had already made himself unavailable for this season’s Six Nations in order to focus on his mental well-being and Smith was a leading contender to fill his boots.

Smith left England’s training camp on crutches and headed for a scan after his session had been cut short.

England attack coach Richard Wigglesworth told several national media outlets: “Hopefully it’s very precautionary, but if he is not (available) it would definitely be a blow for us.

“It wasn’t a big incident. He was just jogging, but he pulled up and happened to be right next to a physio by the sideline, so they walked off after that. All the usual stuff (medical assessments) will happen.”

Steve Borthwick feels that England supporters “deserve better” when it comes to performances and results in the Guinness Six Nations.

While England’s seven Six Nations titles put them top of the tree, the tally also gives a slightly distorted picture.

Three of those successes came during the competition’s first four seasons – and before England won the 2003 World Cup – and it has been a mere 20 per cent success-rate since then.

One title over the past six years underlines how tough England have found it and they have their work cut out again this time around, given the dominant form of Ireland and France.

“What has happened sometimes is England have been coming into the tournament and we are often talked about being favourites, and essentially England’s performance has not been anywhere near that level,” England head coach Borthwick said.

“The team knows that and the team wants to deliver better and the supporters deserve better.”

England will arrive in the competition after a third-place finish at the World Cup, an outcome that exceeded many expectations.

And the fixture schedule has been relatively kind as games against opening opponents Italy in Rome and Wales at Twickenham could see them generate early momentum.

But given it is then a Murrayfield appointment with Scotland, chasing four successive victories over England for the first time since 1972, then Ireland before a finale against France in Lyon, starting well is pretty much non-negotiable.

With World Cup captain Owen Farrell deciding to miss the Six Nations as he prioritises his and his family’s mental well-being, hooker Jamie George takes over as skipper.

Borthwick’s 36-strong squad includes seven uncapped players, headlined by 21-year-old Exeter wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, with only 17 survivors from the World Cup.

Experienced forwards Kyle Sinckler and Billy Vunipola missed out, while Courtney Lawes, Ben Youngs and Mako Vunipola retired from Test rugby, but approaching half the squad have each won 30 caps or more

Borthwick added: “I think you can see from my selections that I value the importance of having experience in there with younger, less experienced players and having that sort of support around them.

“I think that’s really important on the international stage. I think it is important at any level.

“You look at the effect Jamie George has in gluing the team together. It is just awesome. And I am delighted that we have got Joe Marler and his experience around the group, Dan Cole as well, just to mention a few.

“So I think getting that balance right with the experience and with these exciting players, younger players coming in is going to be really important.

“Our intent is to hit the ground running in Rome the way we want with the intensity that we want to, which is something that England have not done in recent years.

“At times, we have not jumped into this tournament and have been caught in that first game.

“We want this to be a different mindset for England, a different way of approaching the game and the tournament.

“We are taking a different approach because we need different results to previous tournaments.”

Topsy Ojo believes now is the right time for Steve Borthwick to freshen up his England squad with one eye looking ahead to the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia.

On Wednesday, Borthwick named seven uncapped players in the 35-man training camp ahead of next month’s Guinness Six Nations.

Broadcaster Ojo, who won two England caps in 2008, admitted the likes of Billy Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler will be disappointed at missing out on selection, but the introduction of young talent will strengthen their World Cup bid in three years’ time.

He said: “Now is the time to have something new and do something fresh and if you look at the guys he’s (Steve Borthwick) picked, they’re all there on merit and have played incredibly well.

“It’s an exciting squad. There’s a continuity of leadership and emerging young talent.

“Sinckler and Vunipola will be disappointed and you know they’ll go away and fight tooth and nail to get their shirts back.

“It’s the start of a new cycle. Who will benefit from being exposed now? Out of the uncapped players, we need to think who will be playing in Australia in 2027 with 30 caps under their belts and are battle-ready and experienced in international rugby. There’s that long-term vision ahead and it starts now.”

Borthwick, who replaced Eddie Jones in December 2022, had a rocky start to his tenure as England head coach but finished 2023 with a third-placed finish at the World Cup.

Ojo believes the 44-year-old is still the right man to take the side forward.

“Yes, 100 per cent,” Ojo said. “It was a difficult time for him to come in because a lot of the other teams were settled in their processes.

“He’s been through some painful experiences, but ultimately he’s taken this team to a World Cup semi and a bronze-place finish.

“If you look at the squad he’s picked now, he has the talent at his disposal to make England a success.

“Will there be some teething problems early on? Yes. That’s the nature of sport, but it’s a challenge he’ll look forward to and embrace. So is he the man to do it. Absolutely.”

Exeter wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, who was born in Cardiff and eligible to play for Wales, is among the new additions and Ojo talked up the 21-year-old.

He said: “I’m happy to see Feyi-Waboso in there. He’s electric and I’m happy to see him exposed at the next level. He’s not played that many senior games but he’s shown enough.”

Jamie George has been told to put his own stamp on the captaincy after being entrusted to lead a revamped England squad into the Guinness Six Nations.

George takes charge of team for the first time after filling the vacancy created by Owen Farrell’s decision to miss the Championship in order to prioritise his and his family’s mental wellbeing.

The promotion capped a special day for the 33-year-old having also signed a new two-year deal with Saracens that is to be accompanied by a central contract with the Rugby Football Union.

As undisputed first choice hooker, as well as an influential player in the English game, George was chosen ahead of nearest rivals Ellis Genge and Maro Itoje.

An element of the appointment process was instigated by Belgium manager and former Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany and now that he has risen to the top, Steve Borthwick insists George must lead in his own image.

“I was asked by somebody ‘have you given Jamie, any advice?’” said head coach Borthwick, who captained England 21 times as a second-row.

“The one thing I said is: ‘I want you to lead as you.’ And that one year, many many years from now, you will reflect and want to say you led as you.

“I’d say during my time as England captain, I don’t think I led as me. I want him to bring all his personality to it.

“Prior to the World Cup we did this study. We will do something similar again in the near future. It was a network analysis, for want of a better term. It was actually an idea given to me by Vincent Kompany.

“You basically give the players a series of questions. And then put the top three players you turn to in this situation.

“What it effectively produces is this network of how everybody connects and who connects with who the most.

“You could tell in different elements – in tactical elements, high pressure circumstances, off the field – you connect with different people.

“So I had this incredible amount of information and it said ‘I know where people turn to’. You’d be able to see and tell me who they turn to, who Ellis and Maro would turn to. And the number of people who connected with Jamie George is immense.

“He has this ability, across the whole squad, to make people understand him. That stood out to me as being exceptional.

“He’s a great people person. He’s got a positive nature. There’s always a smile very close in the way he is. And I want him to bring all of that into this role as the captain.”

Even allowing for retirement and injury, Borthwick has completed a significant overhaul in naming a 36-man squad for the Six Nations to begin the next World Cup cycle.

Kyle Sinckler and Billy Vunipola have been dropped, Henry Slade and Alex Dombrandt are back in favour and there are first time appearances in an England squad for some exciting rookies such as Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and Ethan Roots.

Only 17 of the 34 who helped England finish third in last autumn’s World Cup are present.

“I look at this as the next step that we need to take. It’s the next competition and in terms of the development of the team, it’s important that we build on our game,” Borthwick said.

Ellis Genge insists he has shown the healing powers of Marvel superhero Wolverine in recovering from his hamstring injury in time for England’s Six Nations opener.

In a significant boost for Steve Borthwick ahead of Wednesday’s squad announcement for the Championship, Genge is on course to be fit to face Italy on February 3.

The Bristol prop inured his hamstring in early December and while Friday’s European clash with Connacht is too soon for his comeback, he could return against Bath a week later if England decide he needs the game time.

“I’m all good. They said the hammy has healed. They said miraculous, like Wolverine,” said Genge in reference to the X-Men character who can repair damaged tissue at an extraordinary rate.

“They said there is still a little bit of scar tissue that is a little bit immature, so we’ll just tick away at that this week. But I should be fit.

“The rehab has been long, daunting. It’s tough watching everyone else playing.

“Obviously when your team is not performing well and you’re one of the bigger players you want to be involved, but unfortunately I’ve been sitting on the sidelines pulling my hair out.”

Genge’s recovery has eased the crisis that had developed at loosehead after Joe Marler injured an arm, Bevan Rodd was ruled out of the entire Six Nations by a broken toe and Mako Vunipola retired from international rugby.

Bath’s Beno Obano has been playing himself into contention and is likely to be included among the 36 players named by Borthwick on Wednesday morning.

“Beno has been amazing,” said Genge, speaking at the Netflix Six Nations documentary premiere.

“It gives you fire, whether you like it or not. You’d be lying if you said it doesn’t push you to get back fit and prove to the world what you can do.”

Genge’s front-row colleague Jamie George is expected to be named England’s captain for the Six Nations after Owen Farrell ruled himself out of the tournament in order to prioritise his mental wellbeing.

England prop Joe Marler has been ruled out of Harlequins’ Investec Champions Cup clash against Cardiff as his arm injury continues to be assessed.

It comes amid front-row concerns for England head coach Steve Borthwick ahead of the Guinness Six Nations.

Marler’s fellow loosehead props Ellis Genge, Bevan Rodd, Mako Vunipola and Val Rapava-Ruskin are also on the sidelines.

Borthwick’s problems include a four-match ban being imposed on Saracens’ Vunipola, who was sent off for a dangerous tackle against Premiership opponents Newcastle.

Although he will be available if required for the Six Nations, experienced campaigner Vunipola cannot play again until after Saracens’ Premiership appointment with Exeter, which is only a week before England’s Six Nations opener against Italy on February 3.

Genge, an England captaincy contender following Owen Farrell’s decision to miss the Six Nations, last featured for his club Bristol on December 2. He has been sidelined due to a hamstring injury.

Sale forward Rodd is out for the rest of this season after undergoing toe surgery and Gloucester’s Rapava-Ruskin, who was part of England’s World Cup training squad last year, is another long-term absentee following a knee operation.

On the 88-cap Marler, who was hurt during Quins’ victory over Gloucester 10 days ago, the club’s head coach Danny Wilson said: “There is still a little bit of assessment going on.

“Joe is a week-by-week process at the moment to make a full assessment of the time period and the time-frame.

“He is not going to play this weekend – that is pretty clear – but what I can’t give is a time-frame. There have been a few twists and turns with it.

“We are kind of in the middle of a full assessment.

“I know that is going to sound a little bit like it is taking a while to assess, but there is a little bit to this one so I am probably not really going to be able to give you much.

“Until we get a full picture and a full time-frame, and we are in that process at the moment, then I can’t really tell you a huge amount.”

England have yet to finalise the details of their ‘hybrid contracts’ but Steve Borthwick has revealed that setting players’ workload when on club duty will not be among his powers.

Up to 25 of the contracts will be given to leading squad members chosen by Borthwick with the deals worth £150,000 per year and ranging in duration from one to three years.

By providing a guaranteed annual sum in advance rather than paying match fees, it is hoped that England’s stars will be persuaded to stay in the Gallagher Premiership instead of pursuing the greater riches on offer in France’s Top 14.

The contracts will also give Borthwick more say in their conditioning and medical programmes when on club duty, but there are clear limitations to an arrangement which is expected to be approved in the Spring.

“The details are still being worked out but there will be no control of player game time,” said head coach Borthwick, who will also be unable to influence what position an England international fills when in action in the Premiership.

“Clearly there is the integrity of the league and we need to make sure the players are available for that. But there is also the understanding that England have the best players available when they are needed.

“We have got to make sure we find a system that works and we all want to see the best players playing for both club and country.

“We have outlined positions where we don’t have huge depth and we want to see the best players for club and country in those positions.

“The clubs want the best players playing and if you look at the minutes and compare them to teams such as Ireland, who have a different system, then since the World Cup the England players have played a lot of minutes.


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“How we get this system right is still being worked out but this is definitely a step in the right direction as we find the right solution.”

Borthwick names his squad for the Six Nations on January 17 and will be looking for a better performance than last year’s championship when England managed only two victories and finished fourth.

For the Red Rose boss it feeds into a bigger picture of underachievement in the competition.

“This is a special tournament. Now we’ve got some way to go. England in the last six years in the Six Nations have won 50 per cent of the games,” Borthwick said

“In four of those six years, England only won two games in the Six Nations. What England have done in recent Six Nations hasn’t been good enough so we’ve got work to do.

“I love this tournament and I want England competing again at the end of it for being at the top of the table.”

Owen Farrell’s future with England remains uncertain after Steve Borthwick revealed he has been given no indication by his captain that he plans to return.

Farrell will miss at least the Six Nations in order to prioritise his and his family’s mental wellbeing following last autumn’s World Cup in France, during which the Saracens fly-half was repeatedly booed by supporters at games.

With Farrell also likely to be unavailable for the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand, there is the possibility that the bronze final victory over Argentina in November was the 32-year-old’s final Test for England.

When asked if Farrell will play for England again, Borthwick replied: “I’m really hopeful he does.

“We are all hopeful Owen will return to the England team at some point soon, but that’s going to be a decision Owen makes.

“Owen and I spoke right at the end of the World Cup. We were actually in Paris. We took a walk and he shared some of his thoughts and what he was thinking at that point in time.

“Then he took a period of reflecting and we met a couple of weeks later and he told me of his decision to step away. He expressed some of his feelings, which is clearly a confidential conversation.

“The first thing I’ll say there is I’m full of admiration for this guy – as a man, a player and a leader. It takes a lot of courage to do what he’s done.

“I made it really clear there’s no pressure on him, that it’s his decision to be made at the time that’s right for him.”

Borthwick is dismayed by the number and viciousness of online trolls at the World Cup, insisting the vitriol Farrell faced mirrors the growing mistreatment of some high profile figures in the game.

Farrell was caught in the eye of the storm following his red card for a dangerous tackle against Wales in August, a decision that was overturned and then reinstated in reaction to a public outcry.

Meanwhile, referees Wayne Barnes and Tom Foley have spoken of the influence online abuse had on their recent decisions to retire after the World Cup.

“In England alone we’ve seen a player – a captain – and two match officials step away at the top of their game because of certain issues,” Borthwick said.

“There are societal issues that are going on here. The online hate that is spread is not OK, it’s not right.

“For people to have to endure that, their families to have to endure that, to drive people out of the game, is just appalling.

“I don’t have the answers to it but I do know it’s wrong and they’re not true rugby fans that are saying this stuff.

“None of us expected what happened at that World Cup in that area, or for it to be at that level of vitriol against certain people and certain teams.”

A new England captain will be appointed later this month with Jamie George, George Ford and Ellis Genge leading candidates, but Borthwick ruled out an approach to Courtney Lawes.

Lawes announced his international retirement at the end of the World Cup but has been in superb form for Northampton so far this season.

“Courtney’s been playing really well but he was pretty clear to me about his step,” Borthwick said.

Kevin Sinfield is to step down as England defence coach after the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand.

Sinfield has been Steve Borthwick’s number two since the start of his reign in December 2022 but his time at Twickenham will come to an end after 18 months.

Before he moves on, the Leeds rugby league great will take charge of individual skills and work with the kickers having previously overseen the defence.

“Kevin after the World Cup had a period of reflection, like every member of the management team did,” Borthwick said.

“Kev’s decided that longer-term he’s going to head in a different direction away from the England rugby team.

“He’s going to work with the team through the Six Nations and through the summer tour.

“Ahead of the autumn series Kev will not work with the team then, he will move away from the team and in a different direction.”

When asked to expand on Sinfield’s future plans, Borthwick replied: “Not right now and Kev hasn’t told us. That’s a question you can discuss with Kev in due course.

“I’m just grateful that’s he added so much value over these 12 months and that he’s going to stay with the team for the Six Nations and the summer tour.

“Through this first 12 months, Kev’s role and what he’s added as we’ve reset the team, you can’t overstate the value he’s brought, what he’s done and the relationships he’s built.

“I’ve changed his role to skills and he will be working specifically on catch-pass skills with the kickers and goalkickers, which he does so very well.”

Harlequins prop Joe Marler’s arm injury is being assessed by specialists amid front-row concerns for England ahead of the Guinness Six Nations.

Marler’s fellow loosehead props Ellis Genge, Bevan Rodd, Mako Vunipola and Val Rapava-Ruskin are all currently on the sidelines.

And Quins are awaiting a full medical verdict on Marler, who went off during the Gallagher Premiership victory over Gloucester at Twickenham on Saturday.

England head coach Steve Borthwick has potentially been presented with a major headache just a month before England’s Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome.

His problems include a four-match ban being imposed on Saracens’ Vunipola, who was sent off for a dangerous tackle against Premiership opponents Newcastle.

Although he will be available if required for the Six Nations, experienced campaigner Vunipola cannot play again until after Saracens’ Premiership appointment with Exeter, which is only a week before the Italy clash.

Vunipola missed out on the Rugby World Cup in France, with Borthwick choosing Genge, Marler and Rodd to fill three loosehead slots.

Genge, an England captaincy contender following Owen Farrell’s decision to miss the Six Nations, last featured for his club Bristol on December 2. He has been sidelined due to a hamstring injury.

Sale forward Rodd is out for the rest of this season after undergoing toe surgery and Gloucester’s Rapava-Ruskin, who was part of England’s World Cup training squad last year, is another long-term absentee following a knee operation.

Borthwick will announce his Six Nations squad in the near future, with prop resources seemingly being stretched.

On 88 times-capped Marler, Quins rugby director Billy Millard said: “We had three big injuries in the first-half to three very influential and key decision-makers on the pitch (Marler, Dino Lamb and Stephan Lewies).

“To be totally honest, they are still seeing specialists. I think some of them have turned out alright, but I am still not 100 per cent clear on the three. We are still waiting for total clarity.

“It’s his (Marler’s) arm, but again, they are getting MRIs and there are specialists looking at it and until I am 100 per cent clear I wouldn’t want to speculate.

“God love him, he battled on for a long time, but we have got specialists looking at him as we speak. I doubt very much he will be available for selection (against Newcastle on Friday).

“Fingers crossed, it is only a short-term one. Joe is Joe. He is big for us in so many ways. Hopefully, it is not a long one for him.”

On a positive note, Genge’s situation appears to be improving, with Bristol rugby director Pat Lam stating: “He is back running now, so he is on track.

“He is certainly going to make the Six Nations, whether he makes the start… the most important thing is that he gets back to playing.”

Saracens and England prop Mako Vunipola has received a four-match ban after being sent off against Gallagher Premiership opponents Newcastle.

Vunipola was dismissed during the closing stages of Saturday’s encounter following a dangerous tackle on Newcastle hooker Bryan Byrne.

He will miss Saracens’ Premiership appointments with Leicester and Exeter, plus Investec Champions Cup games against Bordeaux-Begles and Lyon.

Vunipola, though, will be available for England’s Guinness Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on February 3 if head coach Steve Borthwick decides to recall him.

And that could prove timely, given current injuries to England’s three World Cup squad loosehead props Ellis Genge, Joe Marler and Bevan Rodd.

Vunipola’s case was heard by an independent disciplinary panel.

“The player admitted that foul play took place, but not that it met the red card threshold,” the Rugby Football Union said.

“The panel upheld the charge and Vunipola received a four-match ban.

“He is ineligible to take part in World Rugby’s coaching intervention programme, having completed it in 2022.”

Had Vunipola not already done that programme, he could have applied on this occasion and then expected to have had one game subtracted from the suspension.

England are to provide greater support for the welfare of their players in response to captain Owen Farrell taking a break from Test rugby to prioritise his mental health.

Farrell made the shock decision just weeks after leading England to a third-placed finish at the World Cup in France – during which he was regularly booed by fans – and he will miss at least the Six Nations.

The fly-half’s international team-mate Kyle Sinckler stated that Farrell taking a step back was “only the beginning” because of the workload and pressure faced by players at the highest level.

As well as being booed at games, Farrell has been the victim of online abuse and there is an acceptance at the Rugby Football Union that playing for England brings with it a growing level of scrutiny.

“We just want to support Owen and all the time we are looking to improve the wrap-around care for players. That is the most important thing,” RFU executive director of performance rugby Conor O’Shea said.

“It is getting more and more difficult and febrile to operate in some of these environments so we need to look really carefully at this to make sure we are the best at it.”

Head coach Steve Borthwick is to be given greater control over his most important players with the introduction of 25 ‘hybrid contracts’.

But while he will be able to set an England star’s conditioning program and influence medical decisions when they are with their clubs, he will not have the scope to dictate what position they play.

Marcus Smith was primarily used as a full-back during the World Cup but Borthwick would be unable to insist he wears the 15 jersey for Harlequins were he to be given one of the new contracts.

“We are very careful when it comes to selection and where a player will play at his club,” O’Shea said.

“The deal is that players are paid to win at the weekend and so clubs will make that final call where the player plays.”

O’Shea has been involved in shaping plans for a new-look second tier of English club rugby that will sit below the Gallagher Premiership.

The league – tentatively named ‘Premiership 2’ – would replace the existing Championship with teams currently in that competition invited to indicate whether they wanted to be involved.

If there was insufficient interest then all funding to the Championship in its current form would be pulled by the RFU, who believes the competition needs a significant overhaul.

“What are you investing in? You’d rather take that money and invest it in other things,” RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said.

“I know it’s a controversial topic, but where are you going to get that return on investment?

“We’ve shown that if you pour money into the existing structure of the Championship, it just doesn’t deliver. That’s not being disrespectful, it just doesn’t.”

Henry Arundell will be unavailable for England selection until 2026 after agreeing a two-year contract extension with Racing 92.

Arundell, one of the most exciting talents in the English game, cannot be picked by Steve Borthwick due to the Rugby Football Union’s rule of only allowing players in the Gallagher Premiership to be considered for selection.

The dynamic 21-year-old has turned down a move to Bath that would have been enhanced by one of the RFU’s hybrid contracts, which are being introduced next year.

The financial collapse of London Irish at the end of last season resulted in his switch to Racing and while he was available for the World Cup because of the circumstances, his decision to stay in Paris places him in England exile starting with the Six Nations.

“We are delighted to see Henry extend his commitment with Racing 92,” club president Laurent Travers said.

“He just joined our squad a few weeks ago but has already demonstrated all the qualities of a great competitor and great maturity.

“He fits perfectly into the club’s short- and medium-term objectives and we are convinced that he will be one of the driving forces to achieve them.”

With Arundell’s new contract expiring in June 2026, he has the scope to join a Premiership club for the 2026-27 season with a view to playing in the next World Cup.

Having scored five tries against Chile at France 2023, he then announced his arrival to Racing fans with a hat-trick against Toulon, confirming his status as one of the game’s most dangerous runners.

He follows international team-mates Jack Willis, Sam Simmonds, Jack Nowell, Joe Marchant and David Ribbans in committing himself to the Top 14, but he is the youngest to do so in what is a blow for the English game.

Owen Farrell has received the full backing of England head coach Steve Borthwick after deciding to take a break from international rugby to prioritise his and his family’s mental health.

It means that England captain Farrell, who has led England at the last two World Cups and won 112 caps, will not be available for this season’s Six Nations Championship.

In his absence – no date has been announced for a Test return – and following the international retirement of Courtney Lawes, Bristol prop Ellis Genge is a probable successor as skipper.

George Ford would be favourite to take Farrell’s fly-half role for the Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on February 3, with Marcus Smith also a contender.

Borthwick said: “Everyone at England Rugby is fully behind Owen’s decision.

“Since making his debut, he has been an integral part of the England set-up for over a decade, and the demands on elite athletes are extremely challenging.

“He is an exemplary player, captain and leader and always gives his all for his country.

“It is with typical courage that Owen has made this decision to open up in this manner.

“Together with all of us at England Rugby, I will do everything I can to ensure that he has the support he requires going forward.”

In a statement announcing the surprise – and sobering – development, Farrell’s club Saracens said: “Owen Farrell has decided to take a break from international rugby in order to prioritise his and his family’s mental well-being.

“This means he will not be available for selection for the 2024 Six Nations.

“He will continue to play for Saracens and captain the club.

“As always, Owen will have the full support of everyone at the club.”

The Rugby Players’ Association, meanwhile, added: “Owen Farrell has the unconditional support of everyone at the RPA.

“He is a leader and figurehead in the English game, but is also an individual, husband and father. His well-being comes first, and we will support him in every way we can, going forward.”

Farrell led England to a third-place World Cup finish in France last month, but the tournament build-up proved far from plain-sailing for him.

He was sent off in a World Cup warm-up game against Wales, only for an independent disciplinary panel to cause an outcry when it cleared him following a shoulder-led tackle to the head of Wales forward Taine Basham, which was expected to result in a significant ban.

World Rugby then appealed that decision, and he received a four-match ban that included England’s opening two World Cup fixtures against Argentina and Japan.

Farrell’s father – Ireland head coach Andy Farrell – labelled media coverage of the episode “a circus”, while Borthwick said in August: “The commentary around it seems to move from an issue around the tackle to personal attacks on the character of the man, which I think is just wrong.”

Farrell, 32, was subjected to considerable attacks on social media, and at times during the World Cup he was booed by sections of the crowd during England games.

Having made his England debut in 2012, Farrell has amassed an England record 1,237 points, recently overtaking Jonny Wilkinson.

He captained England at the World Cup in the 2019 and 2023 tournaments and has also featured on three British and Irish Lions tours.

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