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.”

England’s much-anticipated Test tour of India will be televised in the UK by TNT Sports, which has signed a deal to screen the series just a week out from when the first ball is due to be bowled.

A spokesperson for TNT confirmed to the PA news agency that the broadcaster has agreed a five-year contract to exclusively show India’s home series in all formats, which includes England’s next white-ball trip in early 2025 and another Test tour at a date to be determined.

The possibility of a UK blackout for the upcoming five-match series between teams ranked second and third in the world, starting on January 25 in Hyderabad, has therefore been averted.

India remains by far the sport’s most lucrative market but deals with the country’s governing body have often gone to the wire, with rights distributors eager to recoup sizeable initial outlays.

When England last toured the country for a Test series, in 2021, a similar situation unfolded and ended in an 11th-hour bid from Channel 4 as it made an unexpected re-entry into the market.

But with the terrestrial channel pumping resources into this year’s Paralympics, there was understood to be no interest in a similar move this time around, leaving Sky Sports and TNT as the other outlets.

Sky was the de facto home of all England tours between 1990 and 2017 but TNT has shown the last two Ashes series in Australia and stepped in to screen Jos Buttler’s white-ball team in the Caribbean last month.

Having secured this marquee series, TNT seems likely to take the world commentary feed and assemble a studio team in the UK given the short turnaround. TalkSPORT holds the radio rights.

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.

Steven Finn has tipped “superhuman” James Anderson to bounce back from his struggles last summer to make an impact for England in India.

Anderson claimed five wickets at an average of 85.40 in four Ashes Tests to spark more conjecture over his future after he turned 41 in July.

While Stuart Broad retired at the conclusion of the drawn series, Anderson had no such plans to walk away and Finn, who played with the veteran seamer during England’s successful tour of India in 2012-13, is confident his old team-mate will impress over the next two months.

“Jimmy is superhuman,” Finn said of the Lancashire seamer, who has 34 wickets and boasts an average of 29.32 from 13 Tests in India.


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“People have been anticipating he will retire for about seven years now and he keeps surprising people and performing.

“He didn’t have a fantastic summer last year, but I know from knowing him as a character that he wouldn’t be doing this unless he felt he could make a difference.

“I think a determined Jimmy Anderson, well managed, is someone who will be important to England, especially making the most of the reverse swing because he is an absolute master at that.

“He would have worked on his fitness, he would have trained hard, he has got the skills and has got the experience so I anticipate when he plays, he’ll be an important cog.”

India have not lost a home Test series since England’s 2-1 win nine years ago and Finn predicted this would pose the “toughest challenge” of the Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum era.

England’s aggressive ‘Bazball’ style of play has taken the cricket world by storm over the past 18 months, but eyebrows have been raised at their preparation for this series, which begins in Hyderabad next Thursday.

Stokes’ squad have spent this week in state-of-the-art facilities in Abu Dhabi on a training camp and will only arrive in India three days before the first Test. It led to former seamer Steve Harmison predicting a 5-0 defeat.

Finn added: “I think if someone had offered (former head coach) Andy Flower three days’ preparation before a Test series his head would have exploded.

“I think there are a couple of caveats: times have changed, clearly. We don’t even go to an Ashes and have three warm-up games now, like we did on my first tour in 2010/11.

“I do think we encounter problems with the warm-up games because on that 2012 (India) tour, we turned up for a game and they played six 70mph medium pacers and no spinners and it didn’t replicate what you were going to find in the Test matches.

“I think the changing landscape of cricket has just meant they thought their preparation was best served elsewhere and it’s very hard to question this management team because every time we have over the last 18 months or so, they’ve dumbfounded everything we’ve thought of their decisions.

“I wouldn’t be as vociferous against it as Steve Harmison was a few weeks ago. It’s less than ideal but I don’t think it’s absolutely critical.”

IG, a leading trading and investments provider, has renewed its partnership with the ECB for a further three years. Through the Net Gains Fund, IG and the ECB will commit £1 million towards initiatives in under-served communities by 2027, including building new net facilities in five English cities in 2024.

Jamie George will lead England into the Guinness Six Nations but Kyle Sinckler and Billy Vunipola face uncertain international futures after being omitted from Steve Borthwick’s squad for the tournament.

George, the 85-cap veteran hooker, replaces Owen Farrell as captain after the Saracens fly-half decided to miss the Championship in order to prioritise his and his family’s mental wellbeing.

The 33-year-old is undisputed first choice in his position, an influential player in the English game and highly experienced, all factors behind his promotion ahead of Ellis Genge and Maro Itoje.

He has just committed his future to Saracens and is poised to sign one of the Rugby Football Union’s 25 ‘enhanced contracts’ at a time when a growing number of England players – including Farrell – have either joined French clubs or are considering doing so.

Explaining George’s choice as captain, head coach Borthwick said: “Firstly, Jamie is an outstanding player, one of the best hookers in the world with incredible work-rate. He’s a great example in that sense.

“Secondly, he’s got a fantastic understanding of the game, tactically very astute. And thirdly, he’s brilliant with people and builds great relationships.

“(His new contract) is a real positive step. It’s a really good sign that English rugby, while there’s still some way to go, has potentially turned a corner.

“To have the captain of England commit his future to English rugby is an important step.”

The outlook for Vunipola and Sinckler is less positive with two stalwarts of the 2019 and 2023 World Cup cycles facing battles to reclaim their places in the pack.

“I’ve spoken to both players regularly about what I’d like to see develop in their games to be in the squad,” Borthwick said.

“Do I think Kyle Sinckler will be back in the squad at some point in the future? I’m pretty sure he will be and I sense a determination from him to go after the aspects we discussed.”

England and Saracens appear increasingly resigned to Farrell’s departure to Racing 92 next season, a move that would make him ineligible for international selection.

“I spoke with Owen yesterday (Tuesday) and what’s important is that Owen makes a decision that’s right for Owen and his family,” Borthwick said.

“Will a player of Owen’s calibre be missed if he chooses to play outside of England?  Yes, of course. Do I want him in some point in the future to come back? Yes.

“But I also want him to do what’s right for him and his family and have the experiences and the memories that he wants to make.”

There are seven uncapped players in a 36-man squad that has been significantly revamped following the World Cup, containing only 17 of the 34 involved in France.

Retirements and injuries have forced Borthwick’s hand to an extent, while there are returns for the likes of Henry Slade and Alex Dombrandt, but the inclusion of Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Oscar Beard, Tom Roebuck, Chandler Cunningham-South, Ethan Roots, Fraser Dingwall and Fin Smith indicates a period of evolution.

Exciting 21-year-old Exeter wing Feyi-Waboso was born and raised in Cardiff and played for Wales at age-group level, only to now commit to England.

“Manny’s really impressed us, not just on the pitch. We can all see the power he brings, the speed he brings. He finds a way through contact when there doesn’t appear to be a way through there,” Borthwick said.

“When I rang him yesterday (Tuesday), I said ‘I’m announcing my Six Nations squad tomorrow and naming you in it’. I could sense that excitement and buzz down the phone, he was thrilled. And that gave me a real energy and a real buzz as well.”

England are hopeful pace bowler Jofra Archer will be fit to play in this summer’s T20 World Cup.

The 28-year-old has not played professional cricket since a recurrence of an elbow injury at the Indian Premier League in May.

He has been plagued by injuries since bursting on to the international scene by helping England win the 50-over World Cup in 2019 before starring in that summer’s Ashes.

Archer did train with England during their white-ball tour of the Caribbean in December and Key is optimistic he can play a part in their T20 World Cup title defence.

“Our plan is the T20 World Cup, building him up slowly,” Key told the BBC’s Tailenders podcast.

“I saw him bowl in the Caribbean and it was like he’d never been away.

“I don’t want to get back to this thing where he plays and then goes down again.

“He wanted to play in the IPL, but we said not this time. Hopefully the years he has missed he can add to the end of his career. He is such a talent.”

England begin the T20 World Cup, which will be held in the West Indies and the United States, against Scotland in Barbados on June 4.

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 head coach Sarina Wiegman has signed a contract extension that runs through to the 2027 World Cup, the Football Association has announced.

The Dutch boss has enjoyed great success since taking charge of the Lionesses in September 2021, leading them to Euro glory the following summer.

She also took England to last summer’s World Cup final, where the team lost 1-0 to Spain, and on Monday night won the 2023 FIFA award for the best women’s coach.

Wiegman said: “I am so happy to have the chance to lead England through to 2027 after an incredible two and a half years. Looking forward, we have unfinished business and I know we are capable of even more, although nothing will come easy.”

Ellis Genge is “ready to go” for England in their Guinness Six Nations campaign, according to Bristol boss Pat Lam.

The news is a major front-row fitness boost for England head coach Steve Borthwick after injuries and suspension hit hard at loosehead prop.

Genge, an England captaincy contender following Owen Farrell’s decision to miss the Six Nations, has not played for his club Bristol since early December due to a hamstring injury, but Lam has delivered an encouraging fitness bulletin.

“Ellis has a chance of starting the Six Nations. He is right on track,” Lam said.

“He has started running and will probably join us in training next week. The medical team and Ellis have done a great job.

“He looks bigger as well, and one thing you can do when you are injured is get bigger, stronger, faster and more powerful.

“He will not play for us next weekend, and then he is with England so will not be with us for Bath (on January 27).

“I do not know if they would release him for the Bath game because they will be away abroad. That is up to Steve, but he is ready to go for England.”

Genge’s fellow loosehead props Joe Marler, Bevan Rodd, Mako Vunipola and Val Rapava-Ruskin are also currently 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 face Italy in Rome on February 3.

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.


Marler, meanwhile, has an arm injury, the extent of which has not yet been revealed by his club Harlequins.

Quins head coach Danny Wilson said on Tuesday: “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.

“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.”

Tom Hartley accepts England have taken a “bit of a punt” in selecting him for a daunting trip to India but the slow left-armer believes he has the tools to thrive.

England’s focus was not on Hartley’s 19 wickets at a modest 44.84 apiece in last year’s LV= Insurance County Championship when they named him in their squad for the upcoming five-match Test series.

Instead, they are banking on Hartley harnessing India’s spinning surfaces in a manner comparable to Ravindra Jadeja and especially Axar Patel, who was England’s nemesis on their last Test tour in 2021.

Hartley’s only previous excursion to India was with Lancashire four years ago although an England Lions training camp in Abu Dhabi a couple of months ago has given him some confidence for the weeks ahead.

“With the conditions being completely different to English conditions, they’ve really analysed what has done well in India and what will do well,” the 24-year-old told the PA news agency.

“It’s nice to see people recognise that I might be the bowler to go out in India and do well. When people have confidence in you like that, it’s fantastic.

“I just feel all that confidence has been passed on to me and I can’t wait to go out there. My stats might not be the best in championship cricket but I bowl very similar to Axar and Jadeja.

“They’re taking a bit of a punt but I feel like I’ve proved myself in the training camps that I’ve been on and I deserve to get a go.”

Hartley suspects he will have a supplementary role if he is given the nod for a series which begins in Hyderabad on January 25, with only Jack Leach among England’s four main spinners capped more than once.

But Hartley, whose international career has comprised of just two ODI appearances against Ireland last year, has given plenty of consideration on how he intends to bowl to the likes of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli.

“Although I haven’t played much cricket out there, I’m going with a feeling of what I need to bowl,” he said. “I see a lot of similarities between my white-ball bowling here and red-ball bowling out there.

“I feel like the pace, the revs you want to put on it and the shape of the ball will be very similar to white-ball areas – you just want to bowl that little bit fuller.

“As much as Indian’s batters are good players of spin, the conditions should be in my favour. You’ve just got to try not to over-complicate things and keep things simple and keep the stumps in play.

“India’s spinners are great but can we perform as well as them? There will be a lot of fight in us. I won’t be playing as a frontline spinner, so there won’t be tons of pressure on me.”

Hartley, who could also extract extra bounce from a 6ft 4in frame, has been taking on board advice from Graeme Swann, revealing the former England spinner’s straightforward approach is a breath of fresh air.

As for whether he has a similar outgoing demeanour as a spinner who took 255 wickets in 60 Tests and is now a consultant bowling coach, Hartley prefers to keep his cool but is not frightened to speak up.

“Once I’m in a battle or someone’s p*****g me off a bit, I’m not afraid to say what I want to say,” Hartley added, ahead of linking up with England on Thursday for a 11-day training camp in Abu Dhabi.

“That really has to be in the moment sort of feel but I’ve done a bit of both and found that just staying as relaxed as possible and having as little emotion as possible works for me.”

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.”

Andrew Strauss was persuaded to return to limited-overs international action and captain England’s tour of the West Indies on this day in 2009.

The England and Wales Cricket Board took the decision to put Strauss in total charge following a week of turmoil, which saw predecessor Kevin Pietersen resign and coach Peter Moores sacked.

Strauss was not a member of the original party to stay on after the four-Test series, having fallen out of favour.

He had last played a one-day game for England in April 2007, against West Indies, in what was Duncan Fletcher’s last match in charge.

But the tumultuous events left the selection panel no straightforward alternative candidates.

The only three men from within the original squad established enough in the side were Pietersen and fellow former captains Andrew Flintoff and Paul Collingwood – both of whom had issues of their own and relinquished the role.

“I am delighted to lead the team in the one-day internationals and Twenty20s,” said Strauss at the time.

“I know I haven’t played an ODI since the end of the World Cup in 2007 but I do feel that I have something to offer in that form of the game.

“Now this situation has been resolved we can now all unite and get about the business of winning cricket matches for England and winning them consistently.”

Strauss announced his retirement from cricket in August 2012 following 100 Test appearances.

He became the ECB’s director of cricket in 2015 – leaving the post after three-and-a-half years – and was knighted in 2019.

In April 2023, it was announced Strauss, who stood in as interim managing director of England men’s cricket between February and May 2022, would leave his roles as strategic adviser to the ECB and chair of the performance cricket committee the following May.

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.”

England finished their triumphant Ashes series by beating Australia to win the fifth Test and complete a 3-1 victory on this day in 2011.

It had seemed a formality since the end of day three in Sydney that they would wrap up a series win – and so it proved when an innings-and-83-run triumph was confirmed just before noon.

Their success on the final day – as in many of those previous against an outplayed Australia in the 2010/11 series – came on the back of a mountain of runs from Alastair Cook and a supreme bowling collective led by James Anderson.

The series’ leading wicket-taker’s seven in the match took him up to 24 for the campaign, and Cook’s 189 in England’s mammoth 644 all out carried him above all but Wally Hammond among his country’s highest run-scorers in an Ashes series.

But there were several other significant contributors at the SCG, and elsewhere, as Andrew Strauss’ team achieved their long-held ambition – to become the first from England to win the Ashes outright in Australia for 24 years.

Such was their ultimate dominance – three innings victories, against one equally resounding defeat in Perth – that it was tempting to conclude it had all been a little bit more straightforward than expected.

However, captain Strauss said: “It hasn’t felt easy, there’s no doubt about that.
“There is always a feeling you don’t know what is round the corner, what’s going to be sprung on you.

“Thankfully, as the series has gone on, I think we have become more dominant – and certainly those last two Test matches were as well as an England side I’ve played in has performed.”

It remains the last time an England side won the Ashes on Australian soil.

Racing 92 have denied England captain Owen Farrell is close to joining the Top 14 club.

The Saracens fly-half, who is missing the Six Nations to look after his mental heath, is reportedly poised for a move to France.

Racing 92 are coached by former England chief Stuart Lancaster, who gave Farrell his international debut in 2012.

A Racing statement said: “Racing 92 is regularly under the aegis of numerous speculations concerning movements within its workforce.

“We are delighted with the appeal of our club Racing 92. However, we deny any agreement concerning the English player Owen Farrell.”

Farrell became England’s leading points scorer at the World Cup and is reportedly out of contract at Saracens at the end of the season.

The 32-year-old has spent all of his career at the club but could now make a surprise move to France.

He has also given England coach Steve Borthwick no indication he plans to return. Farrell is also likely to be unavailable for the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand.

“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,” Borthwick said.

“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.”

Saracens have been approached for comment.

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