Henry Arundell recalled by England with Jack Willis a strong contender to face Italy
Henry Arundell has been recalled to the England squad and could feature in Sunday’s meeting with Italy, despite less than half an hour of game-time since last October.
There is also a return for Henry Slade, raising the possibility of a midfield revamp as Steve Borthwick considers changes following a 29-23 loss to Scotland to begin the Six Nations. Jack Willis, meanwhile, is thought to be in contention for a place in the starting back row.
Arundell, who is understood to have played some part in preparations for the Calcutta Cup towards the end of last week, has effectively replaced Cadan Murley with Slade also added to a squad of 36 in place of Guy Porter.
Dan Kelly’s thigh injury is likely to rule him out for the entire Championship but Courtney Lawes, poised to miss at least the Italy game, will continue his rehabilitation with the group.
Having burst onto the scene last season with London Irish, Arundell earned a place on the July tour of Australia and scored a stunning solo try with his first touch in Perth. Though the 20-year-old began this season in devastating form, and seemed certain to feature in the autumn series, Arundell suffered a foot injury in a loss to Gloucester that required surgery.
However, he took part in England’s New Year meet-ups before making his return from the bench in a 42-24 victory for Irish over Harlequins on January 29. Max Malins, who scored two of England’s three tries, and Ollie Hassell-Collins, Borthwick’s first debutant, started against Scotland and Anthony Watson came off the bench.
Slade has started Tests for England at both inside and outside centre, alongside each of Joe Marchant, Ollie Lawrence and Manu Tuilagi. The 29-year-old had to make do with four appearances from the bench in November, as Eddie Jones teamed up Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell with Manu Tuilagi and Guy Porter from the start of matches. Marchant, Lawrence and Tuilagi have all been retained, providing Borthwick with a number of potential centre combinations.
Steve Borthwick has confirmed the 36-player squad for our @SixNationsRugby match against Italy this weekend 🌹@o2 | #WearTheRose
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 6, 2023
Willis’ prospects of taking on Scotland were stilted by his commitments with Toulouse, whom he joined last November. The former Wasps flanker featured in a Top 14 game against Montpellier on January 29, which Toulouse won 23-9, meaning that he could not train with England last Monday.
That disruption encouraged Borthwick to plump for Ben Curry as his starting openside flanker with Ben Earl covering the back row from the bench. Willis started for Toulouse again on Saturday in a victory over Bayonne. He is thought to be highly-rated by Borthwick, who has been monitoring him and his brother, Tom. The latter started at number eight for Bordeaux against Stade Francais on Sunday.