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England call up Nick Isiekwe to replace banned Charlie Ewels for New Zealand tour

Nick Isiekwe/England call up Nick Isiekwe as Charlie Ewels banned for two matches
Nick Isiekwe has 11 Test caps for England - Getty Images/Steve Bardens

Saracens lock Nick Isiekwe has been called up to the England squad for their tour of New Zealand after Charlie Ewels received a two-match ban for his red card in the win over Japan.

Ewels became the first England player to be sent off in consecutive Tests on Saturday. He was red-carded for a dangerous clear-out on Japan captain Michael Leitch having also been sent off in his previous appearance for England, the defeat by Ireland at Twickenham in March 2022.

A World Rugby disciplinary committee ruled that the offence warranted a low-end entry point and banned Ewels for two matches, meaning he is unavailable for both Tests in New Zealand.

Replacement lock Charlie Ewels was sent off for a cynical clear-out attempt on Japan captain Michael Leitch
Replacement lock Charlie Ewels was sent off for a cynical clear-out attempt on Japan captain Michael Leitch

England have confirmed that Isiekwe will arrive in Auckland on Tuesday, ahead of the series against the All Blacks. England head coach Steve Borthwick said: “I spoke to him last night, spoke to Saracens yesterday, so Nick is fully fit and ready to go.”

That is the one enforced change to the England squad and Borthwick is likely to keep faith with the side that recorded a 52-17 victory in Tokyo, with Marcus Smith poised to retain the fly-half starting position for the first Test against New Zealand.

Borthwick is hoping that being consistent in selection will enable his side to benefit from cohesiveness and build an identity in defence and attack. Smith scored 13 points, including a try, in a commanding performance as the senior fly-half in the squad for the first time in the absence of Owen Farrell and George Ford.

Chandler Cunningham-South, the Harlequins flanker, is the only injury concern from the eight-try victory having rolled his ankle but he is expected to be able to take a full part in the week before the first Test in Dunedin on July 6. England are due to fly to Auckland on Monday.

“Chandler took a knock early in the game, rolled his ankle – you probably saw it getting strapped – and as a young man there was no sense of him wanting to get off the field,” said Borthwick.

“It might affect a few days’ training but definitely the following week is the message. Everyone else is good.

“It shouldn’t be an issue as long as everything is right. He wanted to get back into the battle. That was the biggest thing I took from Chandler. Tough conditions, in hot, humid conditions, rolled his ankle, and he was desperate to stay on the pitch.

“I thought he carried hard. You saw that fight for the first try [his try]. Some of the impact he has in the tackle is formidable. Gradually he’s getting fitter and fitter. I see him making a lot of growth, but we’re only scratching the surface. The potential for him is enormous.”

Borthwick full of praise for Earl

Borthwick was also impressed at the impact Ben Earl made as a centre after switching to the midfield. Telegraph Sport revealed last week that the Saracens flanker had been training at centre and as blindside wing to increase the squad’s positional flexibility to allow Borthwick to consider picking a bench of six forwards and two backs.

“He, without question, has the speed and the skill set to be able to play almost anywhere on the field,” added Borthwick. “The set-piece defence is where there is a bit of a nuance to things; defending outside the scrum.

“He is used to defending outside of a line-out, but defending outside the scrum – that’s where there is a nuance to it. It is then how much time he can spend with the backs, while trying to do his job as a forward.

“You can’t magic up him to do more and more training, because of this relationship aspect. Fundamentally, in any unstructured situation you back him. He’s got the skill set, he’s got the pace, he’s also got a great rugby brain.

“The growth with him in the last year has been enormous, and he can still grow even more. He’s got that attitude to test himself against the best. It’s wonderful, then having the flexibility to move him from that role into another role. That’s how we see it working.”