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England bolster centre stocks

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England call up midfield reinforcements ahead of the All Blacks Test

If there was one area England particularly struggled in against South Africa during their 12-11 win at the weekend, it was with their midfield defence.

Centres Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel both repeatedly gouged England for big gains in the gaps between Ben Te’o and Henry Slade, with de Allende’s inside steps back against the grain proving particularly difficult for the England pair to track and stop.

England head coach Eddie Jones has chosen to be proactive and has called up Harlequins centre Joe Marchant, ahead of the fixture with New Zealand on Saturday. He will form part of a 35-man training group, which has seen Ben Morgan and Ted Hill both return to their clubs after being originally named in the squad for the Quilter Internationals.

The 22-year-old has been involved in multiple England training camps before, but is yet to win his first cap with the senior side, having previously shone at U18 and U20 levels. He has been in good form for Harlequins in the Gallagher Premiership, continuing to be the offensive spark he has always been, as well as making significant improvements as a defender under the watchful eye of Paul Gustard.

With Manu Tuilagi also hoping to be fit for the arrival of the team that he did so much damage to back in 2012, England’s options in the midfield are looking healthy, despite Alex Lozowski still having one more game to serve on his four-week ban from the Heineken Champions Cup.

Te’o and Slade missed 10 tackles between them on Saturday, one or two of which were understandable, with one of the pair shooting up to limit space, but a number also came from a disconnect between the two centres, with Slade drifting out and trusting his inside man, but unaware of Te’o’s inability to get across and cover. If that cannot be patched up in training this week, Jones will have alternative options available to him.

As for Tom Curry, who hobbled off with an ankle injury just after half time, England will assess his condition today but have not called up any cover, with Sam Underhill and Michael Rhodes already in the squad.

Watch: Eddie Jones speaks post-match about Owen Farrell’s tackle and England’s performance against South Africa.

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England call up midfield reinforcements ahead of the All Blacks Test