Alfie Barbeary will start for England A but Ollie Hassell-Collins left out completely

Alfie Barbeary - Alfie Barbeary will start for England A but Ollie Hassell-Collins left out completely
Alfie Barbeary was a headline name when the 27-man squad was announced - Patrick Khachfe/Getty Images

Alfie Barbeary, the Bath No 8, is among 10 uncapped players named in England A’s starting line-up for the visit of Portugal on Sunday.

The team will be captained by Barbeary’s club team-mate, lock Charlie Ewels, who along with Harry Randall, Joe Heyes, Jamie Blamire and Tom Pearson comprise the fully capped players in the England 23. The former trio, along with other members of the starting XV, Max Ojomoh and Will Muir, have dropped down to the A team after training with Steve Borthwick’s senior squad for the past week, while Ojomoh’s centre partner, Oscar Beard, was named in Borthwick’s original Six Nations squad last month.

The notable omissions from the A’s matchday squad are wing duo Ollie Sleightholme and Ollie Hassell-Collins, the latter of whom will qualify for Wales in February 2026 should he not make a further England appearance, along with Saracens forward Nick Isiekwe.

Barbeary is joined on the back row by the highly rated flanking duo of Pearson and Guy Pepper, while 23-year-old Rusiate Tuima partners Ewels in the second row. Fin Baxter of Harlequins joins Blamire and Heyes in the front row.

When naming his senior squad for this year’s Six Nations, Borthwick admitted that he rated Barbeary “very highly” but did not select the No 8 owing to a ban for a high tackle on club duty against Racing 92 at the start of the year.

“I have said that to him,” said the England head coach last month. “We met a few weeks ago in a health-food café in Bath. We had a good chat. I spoke to him yesterday and we have been in regular contact. Is the disciplinary hearing a factor [in Barbeary not being selected for the senior squad]? Yes, there’s no doubt about it because I want certainty. Do I think he’s going to feature in an England team in the near future? Yes.”

The squad, which assembled at Loughborough University on Tuesday before the clash against Portugal at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, was selected by head coach George Skivington, attack coach Sam Vesty and defence coach Dom Waldouck in consultation with Borthwick and RFU Executive Director of Performance Rugby Conor O’Shea.

There is a youthful flavour to selection. The average age of the starting back-line is 24 and Ewels, 28, is the eldest alongside Muir. Josh Iosefa-Scott, the New Zealand-born tighthead, is the next most senior at 27, and should the Exeter prop emerge from the bench then he will be “captured” by England, given that the A side counts as a qualifying side.

Among the replacements, the hooker and loosehead, Sam Riley and Tarek Haffar, are 22; lock Ben Bamber is 23; back-rower Greg Fisilau is 20 and centre Oliver Hartley is 22.

Portugal will be a vastly different side from the one that wowed spectators at the World Cup, however, with their top players set to be in action for French clubs this weekend.