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Six Nations: Steve Borthwick names England squad

New England head coach Steve Borthwick has named a 36-man squad for the Six Nations but there is no place in it for experienced trio Billy Vunipola, Jonny May and Jack Nowell.

Borthwick succeeded Eddie Jones as the man to lead England at the end of last year and he has made some bold decisions when naming his first squad.

England are 9/2 to win the Six Nations outright and they will open their campaign against Scotland at Twickenham on 4th February. England are 1/5 to win, with the visitors 7/2 and the tie 33/1.

WhatSix Nations
WhereTwickenham, Stade de France, Aviva Stadium, Stadio Olimpico, Murrayfield, Millennium Stadium
When4th February - 18th March
How to watchBBC and ITV
OddsIreland 11/4, France, 3/1, England 9/1, Wales 40/1, Italy 2000/1

No room for Vunipola, May or Nowell

A new head coach represents a fresh start for many within the England fold, but for Vunipola, May and Nowell, who have amassed 185 international caps combined, they now appear to face an uphill battle to force their way back in.

Number eight Vunipola's omission is somewhat of a surprise given his recent form for Saracens, while he also impressed during England's summer tour of Australia after returning to the fold under Jones.

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Sam Simmonds and Alex Dombrandt have been preferred at number eight, while Vunipola's brother, Mako, has also made the cut.

Wingers Nowell and May were staples of the England fold under Jones, when fit, but both have been overlooked by Borthwick, who has preferred to go with younger options in the wide areas.

Cole earns recall

Borthwick enjoyed a successful spell in charge of Leicester Tigers prior to becoming England head coach and he has handed an international recall to one of his former players, with veteran prop Dan Cole returning to the fold after an absence of more than three years.

Cole, who turns 36 in May, has not featured for England since their 2019 Rugby World Cup final defeat to South Africa, but he has been rewarded for some impressive form with the Tigers.

Courtney Lawes is also back in the squad following an injury lay-off, while Borthwick has handed recalls to Dombrandt, Ben Curry and Nick Isiekwe, as well as backs Elliot Daly, Dan Kelly, Max Malins and Joe Marchant.

Uncapped quintet hoping to impress

Borthwick has named five uncapped players in his squad, including fly-half Fin Smith, who has impressed since joining Northampton Saints from Worcester Warriors in the autumn and who was also a player on Scotland's radar.

Gloucester hooker George McGuigan, London Irish wing Ollie Hassell-Collins and Harlequins duo Cadan Murley and Jack Walker are the other uncapped players to be included and Borthwick is certainly happy with the balance of his squad.

"This is an exciting squad, with a blend of Six Nations experience and young talent, and includes players who are in excellent form in the Premiership," Borthwick told reporters following his squad announcement.

Farrell to continue as captain

Owen Farrell has also been included in the squad and Borthwick has confirmed the Saracens fly-half will continue to captain the side for the Six Nations.

There was some doubt surrounding Farrell's availability for the tournament after he was handed a four-week ban for a dangerous tackle during Saracens' Premiership clash with Gloucester earlier this month, but the Rugby Football Union (RFU) have offered Borthwick assurances over his skipper's availability for the Scotland game and beyond.

Fellow fly-half Marcus Smith is also in the squad after he recently returned from an ankle injury he picked up in England's Autumn International loss to South Africa - a match that proved to be the last in charge for Jones, who was this week confirmed as the new head coach of Australia.

Borthwick keeping focus on Six Nations

There was extra significance surrounding this squad announcement, not just because it was Borthwick's first as head coach, but also as this is a World Cup year, with the 2023 tournament taking place in France over the autumn.

England were beaten finalists in 2019 and are 11/2 to go one better this year, but Borthwick insists he is not thinking about the World Cup and his focus is firmly on the upcoming clash with Scotland.

"I know the World Cup is around the corner but in 19 days' time we play Scotland and that's our focus," the 43-year-old confirmed.

Following their opening match with Scotland, England will welcome Italy to Twickenham on 12th February before a trip to Wales on the 25th.

Another home clash with defending champions France, who are 6/4 to retain their Six Nations crown, will then follow on 11th March, while England's final game in Ireland on 18th March may prove a decisive one in deciding the destination of the championship.

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