Steve Borthwick insists omitted Manu Tuilagi’s England career is not over

Steve Borthwick insists omitted Manu Tuilagi’s England career is not over

Steve Borthwick shook hands with Manu Tuilagi and said his international career wasn’t over – after dropping him for England’s Guinness Six Nations opener against Scotland.

Tuilagi, a 50-cap veteran and a regular pick for the Red Rose for much of the past decade, was not even named in Borthwick’s 23-man squad as England’s boss made a strong statement with his new maiden squad.

Joe Marchant takes the place of 31-year-old Tuilagi in the England line-up, while Marcus Smith and captain Owen Farrell resume their controversial axis for Saturday’s Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham.

Wing Ollie Hassell-Collins has earned his first cap in a newly formed midfield following injuries to Elliot Daly, Henry Slade and Dan Kelly in the build-up to this weekend’s game.

Ben Curry will earn his first international cap against major opponents after making his debut in a stunning win over the United States nearly two years ago.

Lewis Ludlam joins Curry as a second flanker, with Alex Dombrandt in eighth, while Jamie George starts at the Hooker after overcoming a concussion sustained in the Saracens’ loss to Edinburgh on January 22.

But it was Tuilagi’s glaring omission that provided evidence of a new dawn in England after the sad end of Eddie Jones’ tenure late last year.

“I’m picking the team for this week and there’s competition for spots,” Borthwick said when asked about Tuilagi’s failure to make his matchday squad.

“The nature of it is there should always be good players who aren’t in the 23 because that’s what we want with England. We want depth in every position and players fighting for the shirt.

“This is the selection for this game against a specific opponent and next week is a new week.”

When asked how Tuilagi reacted, Borthwick, 43, replied: “Manu was the incredible professional that he is. We spoke, I told him what I had decided as far as selection went and why I had done it.

“We shook hands and then he went off and trained really hard and that reaction is a testament to him and his character.”

England’s preparations were plagued by a series of injuries that helped revitalize the Smith-Farrell combination that virtually spelled the end for Jones.

But an upbeat Borthwick said: “It’s the right combination for this game. Joe Marchant at 13 works really well with Marcus. You see these two link up, both with the ball in hand, and the great attacking kicks Marcus has and how Joe finds them.

“Owen played really well in the 12’s for many years and some of England’s best performances have come with Owen in the 12’s. He’s spoken to me in the past about how much he enjoys playing with other ball players.”

Elsewhere, Freddie Steward takes over at full-back, with Jack van Poortvliet on the scrum half and Max Malins on the right wing. Vice-Captain Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler join George at the front, with Ollie Chessum and Maro Itoje on the second row.

England will be back in front of the Twickenham crowd for the first time since the humiliating 13-27 defeat by South Africa in November – Jones’ last game in charge.

“The England team playing Scotland have great, experienced players and they also have exciting young talent and new combinations that will complement that experience,” Borthwick added.

“There are a lot of players who have been fighting for a chance in England for a while and now they got their chance.

“The players are determined to represent their country with the fight our fans deserve and expect. We are looking forward. ”

England Team: Steward (Leicester), Malins (Saracens), Marchant (Harlequins), Farrell (Saracens, Capt), Hassell-Collins (London Irish); Smith (Harlequins), Van Poortvliet (Leicester); Genge (Bristol), George (Saracens), Sinckler (Bristol), Itoje (Saracens), Chessum (Leicester), Ludlam (Northampton), Curry (Sale), Dombrandt (Harlequins).

Substitutes: Walker (Harlequins), Vunipola (Saracens), Cole (Leicester), Isiekwe (Saracens), Earl (Saracens), Youngs (Leicester), Lawrence (Bath), Watson (Leicester).

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