Friday, June 14, 2024

Meet the six uncapped players in England’s squad to take on Japan and the All Blacks

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England’s evolution will continue this summer as they travel to Japan and New Zealand seeking to build on an encouraging end to the Six Nations.

While much of Steve Borthwick’s squad is familiar, six uncapped individuals have been included and will hope to press their case for an opportunity on tour.

The head coach has shown confidence in youth and inexperience before, handing all of the previously uncapped Fraser Dingwall, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and Chandler Cunningham-South key roles during the Six Nations.

And while Borthwick has suggested that he intends to pick a strong side to take on Japan in Tokyo on June 22, the game may offer an opportunity to bed in new faces before the two-Test assignment against the All Blacks.

Here is our guide to the six new faces hoping to earn a first cap this summer:

Ollie Sleightholme – Wing, Northampton Saints

Ollie Sleightholme topped the scoring charts in the Premiership this season
Ollie Sleightholme topped the scoring charts in the Premiership this season (Getty Images)

Sleightholme could have done little more to force his way into Borthwick’s squad. The son of 12-cap wing Jon, the 24-year-old topped the try scoring charts in the Premiership this season, showcasing real finishing nous to go along with his natural speed and ability to breach contact. His defensive ability also merits mention, both for his work shutting down the edge and as a breakdown scavenger.

“Clearly his point of difference is to beat defenders and find the try line,” Borthwick explained. “The top try-scorer in the Premiership, he has incredible pace and we want that in this England team. The other thing is he’s a very effective defender.

“You can see how important this defensive system has been to us, over just five games in the Six Nations. And we see him fitting into that system very, very well.”

Fin Baxter – Loosehead prop, Harlequins

Harlequins youngster Fin Baxter has received a first call-up
Harlequins youngster Fin Baxter has received a first call-up (Getty Images)

It may have been that Baxter travelled on tour had Ellis Genge been fit, but the Bristol loosehead’s calf issue perhaps opens the door for the 22-year-old to push for a first cap. The prop protégé of Joe Marler at Harlequins, Baxter also counts Alex Corbisiero as an influence having come through the same Cobham club as another of England’s most destructive looseheads.

His scrummaging work has come on quickly working with Marler and scrum coach Adam Jones at Quins, with Baxter taking it to the giant Ben Tameifuna in his side’s Champions Cup win over Bordeaux-Begles. He also prides himself on the softer skills as a distributor at the line.

“I’m really proud of the year I’ve had,” Baxter said recently. “I’m loving being in this environment and getting myself up to Test level.”

Tom Roebuck – Wing, Sale Sharks

Tom Roebuck has been included in England’s squad
Tom Roebuck has been included in England’s squad (Getty Images)

Roebuck was in England camp throughout the Six Nations but missed out on a first cap, with the form of Feyi-Waboso and Tommy Freeman, plus Elliot Daly’s experience, counting against him. His size, speed and aerial ability are all assets.

“Tom Roebuck is a player who was part of that Six Nations squad, who was champing at the bit for an opportunity in the matchday 23,” said Borthwick.

“He didn’t get that during the Six Nations, and was disappointed but still so eager to perform in training. And I would say his post-Six Nations return to club, his game’s taken another step forward. He’s another player who I’m excited about what he can achieve in the future.”

Joe Carpenter – Full-back, Sale Sharks

Full-back Joe Carpenter has excelled for Sale this season
Full-back Joe Carpenter has excelled for Sale this season (PA Wire)

Roebuck’s equally impressive housemate Carpenter is perhaps the beneficiary of club mate George Ford’s misfortune: George Furbank is ostensibly England’s third ten as well as starting full-back, which allows room for another backfield patroller in Borthwick’s squad.

Carpenter was close to a call-up for the Six Nations and has maintained a high level of form across two domestic seasons now. His skillset is already relatively well-rounded, but working with Furbank and Freddie Steward – two very different but high-class operators – should benefit him.

Luke Northmore – Centre, Harlequins

Luke Northmore has been one of Harlequins’ most reliable performers for several seasons
Luke Northmore has been one of Harlequins’ most reliable performers for several seasons (Getty Images)

Northmore was first called up to England’s squad ahead of the 2022 Six Nations, but has often seemed to get injured at the wrong time since, missing out on serious consideration for a cap. A late developer, the centre followed Alex Dombrandt through the pathway at Cardiff Met and on to Harlequins, catching the eye with his ability to pick a line from either centre spot.

Borthwick spoke again at his squad unveiling about the importance of chemistry and cohesion with a backline, and Northmore enjoys a strong relationship with Marcus Smith at club level. While he is probably fourth in the centre pecking order, Northmore will relish the opportunity to prove himself.

Gabriel Oghre – Hooker, Bristol Bears

Bristol hooker Gabriel Oghre has a nicely rounded skillset
Bristol hooker Gabriel Oghre has a nicely rounded skillset (Getty Images)

The third hooker spot may have been Curtis Langdon’s but for the stinger the Northampton front-rower suffered in the Premiership final. Instead, it is Gabriel Oghre who makes the touring party behind Jamie George and Theo Dan.

Breaking up the Saracens will be difficult with how well they mesh, but Oghre has been well liked for a long time within the England set-up. The 26-year-old bounced from Leicester to Bordeaux after the demise of Wasps in 2022 but has found his footing again in Bristol: he and Harry Thacker combined to give the Bears the best lineout in Europe this season, while Oghre also has the athleticism required to fulfil a variety of roles within England’s attacking structure.

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