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Clive Woodward has named the England XV he wants to see play Japan

By Liam Heagney
England's Tommy Freeman celebrates his March try versus France (Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Former England boss Clive Woodward has revealed the XV he wants to see play Japan next Saturday in the opening match of the three-game summer tour. Steve Borthwick’s squad are in Tokyo for a fixture versus the Japanese that will be streamed live in the UK and Ireland on RugbyPass TV.

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Ahead of the tour opener, Woodward, the 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning coach, has resumed his series of columns in the Daily Mail by outlining the team that Borthwick should name to face Eddie Jones’ Cherry Blossoms before moving on to New Zealand for the two July Tests versus the All Blacks.

He suggested that Tommy Freeman, previously a Borthwick pick on the England wing, should be moved into outside centre to accommodate a debut for Ollie Sleightholme in a backline where he would give the No10 shirt to Marcus Smith now that George Ford is unavailable and hasn’t toured due to injury.

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Woodward’s column intro suggested Bothwick’s squad was similar to football’s Gareth Southgate, who are in Germany looking to win Euro 2024. “The similarities between the two teams are striking. Both are packed with exciting young players blessed with brilliant, natural ability,” he suggested.

“Rightly or wrongly, Southgate and Borthwick have a reputation for pragmatism and a defensive mindset. They will have to throw that approach out of the window to have success this summer.”

Woodward then went on to list the backline he wants running out in Tokyo. “I hope Borthwick has the confidence to throw the kitchen sink at Japan and New Zealand this summer.

“I have been heartened by their progress. At the end of the Six Nations, we saw the team ditch the kick-fest approach that tarnished the end of the Eddie Jones era. Against Ireland and France, England attacked with the pace and intensity everyone wants to see.

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“It seems Borthwick wants to continue on that path… England have a back division that wants to play quickly and cause real damage. The big question is: can the forwards do likewise? If coached correctly, they are capable of it. But England’s pack is still some way behind the best. This summer is a massive chance to bridge the gap.”

Woodward suggested that Borthwick’s biggest selection call is getting the 10-12-13 axis correct and here is why he wants to see Freeman at 13 outside Henry Slade and Marcus Smith.

“Freeman is special and can play both wing and centre. He reminds me of Ben Cohen, who had a brilliant combination of power and timing. Ollie Lawrence has been fantastic, offers a physical presence and will undoubtedly be in the midfield conversation. But playing Slade at 12 offers a second kicking option to Marcus Smith and provides plenty of experience.

“I’d play Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and Ollie Sleightholme on the wings. The former is a nailed-on starter and Sleightholme has come from nowhere to finish as the Premiership’s leading try scorer.”

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Clive Woodward’s England XV versus Japan: 15. G Furbank; 14. I Feyi-Waboso, 13. T Freeman, 12. H Slade, 11. O Sleightholme; 10. M Smith, 9 A Mitchell; 1. J Marler, 2. J George (capt), 3. D Cole, 4. M Itoje, 5. G Martin, 6. T Curry, 8. B Earl, 7. S Underhill.

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6 Comments
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Tim 32 days ago

Fail to understand this infatuation with moving outside backs to the centres. It takes an age to learn the intricacies in those two specialist positions. Internationals are not ideal for learning a new role Clive.

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