Here, we examine who could do with a big showing this weekend…
Clermont v Leicester, Friday, 8pm
The tough centre is likely to receive the call from Borthwick next week, but can show his credentials again on Friday night. The 21-year-old has just one cap and battled his share of injuries before returning to form this term.
Eddie Jones appeared unlikely to usher Kelly into his set-up, but Borthwick raved about him when coaching at Tigers. Another composed and balanced outing could edge him over the line and into the squad.
Sale v Toulouse, Saturday, 1pm
The Samoa-born powerhouse remains integral to England’s set-up, but his quest for full potency continues. Relentless injuries have left Tuilagi following a special training regime, with little to no weights work.
England never saw Tuilagi in full line-breaking flow in the autumn and he has produced only flashes for Sale. A classic performance tomorrow would be a boon for club and country.
Munster v Northampton, Saturday, 3.15pm
Captained England in the latter stages of Jones’s tenure, but missed the autumn series through head-injury concerns. The physical back-five forward has recovered, but quickly suffered a gluteal issue.
Lawes will hope to prove his fitness now and if so, he will take his place in England’s squad as one of the most experienced and reliable operators.
Lawes’s team-mate has been in strong form again and, like fellow centre Kelly, can offer England a more natural option at 12. Should Borthwick look away from pairing Smith and Owen Farrell in the midfield, then Kelly and Dingwall will be chief among the options to start at inside centre.
The 23-year-old was involved in Borthwick’s first England camp earlier this month and has a chance of making the cut. Star at Munster’s intimidating Thomond Park and those chances will rise.
London Irish v Stormers, Sunday, 1pm
The flanker has put himself in contention through a string of showings comprising breakdown acumen and strong ball carrying.
The 23-year-old faces a packed back-row contingent to force his way into the squad, but Tom Curry’s hamstring injury, which could force him to miss the start of the Six Nations, might open the door for Pearson.
Racing 92 v Harlequins, Sunday, 3.15pm
Smith is all set for his first outing since November. The livewire attacking fly-half has now recovered from an ankle problem and returned just in time to prove fitness and form for England.
Sale’s George Ford will be fit in time for the start of the Six Nations, but does not have a chance like this to prove so before Borthwick names his squad.