England: Five players who may have caught Steve Borthwick’s eye during the Premiership festive fixtures

The 2023 Six Nations is fast approaching, and as Steve Borthwick prepares for his maiden campaign as England's head coach, we look at five players who may have caught his eye. Tom Pearson - London Irish, Joe Marler - Harlequins, Jamie Blamire - Newcastle Falcons, Anthony Watson - Leicester Tigers, Guy Porter - Leicester Tigers Credit: Alamy
The 2023 Six Nations is fast approaching, and as Steve Borthwick prepares for his maiden campaign as England's head coach, we look at five players who may have caught his eye. Tom Pearson - London Irish, Joe Marler - Harlequins, Jamie Blamire - Newcastle Falcons, Anthony Watson - Leicester Tigers, Guy Porter - Leicester Tigers Credit: Alamy

The 2023 Six Nations is fast approaching, and as Steve Borthwick prepares for his maiden campaign as England’s head coach, we look at five players who may have caught his eye during the Premiership festive fixtures.

England kick off their Six Nations campaign against Scotland on February 4, leaving little time for hopefuls to stake their claim for a place in Borthwick’s first squad.

Here are five players who may have impressed before and after Christmas.

Tom Pearson – London Irish

An England debut can’t be too far away for London Irish’s star flanker Pearson after another standout performance.

Borthwick is not short on options in the back-row, with excellent flankers littered across the Premiership, but Pearson’s form is becoming difficult to ignore.

Pearson earned a call-up to the England squad in October and might break through under the new boss. The 23-year-old scored a try in the Exiles‘ narrow loss to Leicester Tigers in November, Borthwick’s penultimate Premiership match, and returned this week to put in another top drawer performance against another top three side.

The influential flanker produced when it mattered most for the Exiles, busting through Saracens‘ defence with a scrumptious side step before showing off his pace, tearing up the field into the 22. He provided a neat pass after drawing three defenders in, which got his side up to the five-metre line, with Chandler Cunningham-South finishing off the try and sealing the win.

While that was the highlight of his match, it was far from the only part of his performance that would have caught Borthwick’s eye as he made 22 tackles, a round high across the league, and claimed a turnover.

He made 15 carries in the match, beating three defenders and gaining 55 running metres, 20 of which came in contact. He also added a lineout steal to a well-rounded performance.

While England’s back-row is hotly contested, Pearson’s rounded game puts him in good stead for a Test debut.

Joe Marler – Harlequins

The loosehead prop’s antics have garnered more debate than his performance against the Bristol Bears.

However, Marler’s prowess at scrum time will not have flown under the radar for Borthwick as he put in a solid 57-minute shift.

Quins‘ pack won three penalties against Bristol, with Marler leading the charge with a dominant showing against Max Lahiff.

He had a tidy performance around the pitch, including some neat passes, strong tackles and solid breakdown clearouts. The absence of Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler was sorely felt for the Bears, but Marler and co. certainly made the most of their opportunity.

Anthony Watson – Leicester Tigers

Watson’s delightful double helped Leicester to a 28-13 win over Gloucester on Christmas Eve.

The 28-year-old was one of Borthwick’s last signings for the Tigers, and he has shown his worth in recent weeks after scoring a match-winning try against the Ospreys.

An excellent line and some outstanding footwork saw Watson sneak over the whitewash for his side’s second try and he scored the third by keeping his width and simply running in the score after some slick hands from his teammates.

Like the back-row, the outside back positions are well stocked, but Watson is showing his pedigree, not just with his tries but the nuts and bolts of the outside back roles that should see him back in England white next year.

Jamie Blamire – Newcastle Falcons

Borthwick has highlighted the need for England to shore up their set-pieces, and while Quins produced a strong showing at scrum time, Newcastle mauled their way to victory over Sale Sharks.

The 25-year-old’s performance was at the heart of their dominance, finding his jumper 17 times, missing just twice, in an all-action 80-minute performance.

The Falcons’ maul produced five penalties as Sale struggled to stall the maul as they gained a total of 45 metres.

He made his Test debut last year, scoring on debut against the USA, claimed a hat-trick against Canada and featured in the wins over Tonga, Australia and South Africa that November.

Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie have dominated the hooker roles this year, with Blamire getting just one cap during the Six Nations but could add to his championship tally next year if his form continues.

Outside of his lineout work, he was Newcastle’s top carrier gaining 21 metres from his 11 carries and made eight solid hits on defence.

Guy Porter – Leicester Tigers

Another player from Borthwick’s old club but Porter was fantastic once again for the Tigers as they marched to a hard-fought victory over Gloucester.

The 25-year-old came out tops against the formidable presence of Chris Harris across from him, finishing the match with 48 running metres and two defenders beaten.

He combined superbly with Dan Kelly, who also had a fantastic game, and was sharp defensively, missing just one of his nine attempted tackles.

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