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George Furbank starts for axed Steward as England make five changes

By Liam Heagney
George Furbank, who has taken Freddie Steward's England place (Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Freddie Steward has been dropped by England boss Steve Borthwick for the second time in six games. The full-back was originally axed for last October’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final win over Fiji in Marseille, the No15 shirt being worn instead by Marcus Smith.

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Steward bounced back to retake the jersey from the injured Smith for the following weekend’s semi-final against South Africa.

However, despite impressing with his aerial game in the recent Guinness Six Nations win over Wales at Twickenham, he has now been omitted from the match day 23 for this Saturday’s round three game away to Scotland.

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The surprise naming of the 27-year-old George Furbank as the starting full-back for his first cap since 2022 is one of five changes to the starting line-up despite England going two wins from two in the opening rounds of the Six Nations for the first time since 2019.

Their recent 16-14 victory over Wales was the first time since the World Cup five years ago in Japan that England had fielded an unchanged team from one match to the next.

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30 - 21
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England
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However, having shown faith in his starting XV at the start of the current championship moving from Rome to London, the Borthwick outlook is now very different heading to Edinburgh.

Aside from including Furbank at No15 for just his seventh Test cap, a decision that was purely a selection call and not because of an injury to Steward, Borthwick has also named the fit-again Ollie Lawrence rather than Manu Tuilagi as the starting inside centre.

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Fraser Dingwall, a try-scorer versus the Welsh, drops out while the knee injury to Alex Mitchell has seen his place as the starting scrum-half given to the promoted Danny Care.

In the pack, the two changes to the starting line-up are at prop where Ellis Genge and Dan Cole are promoted from the bench to start in place of Joe Marler and Will Stuart, who will both act as replacements at BT Murrayfield.

Two fresh reserves, other than Marler and Stuart, are the fit-again George Martin, who takes over from Alex Coles, while the promoted Care’s spot is taken by Ben Spencer.

Borthwick said in an RFU team announcement statement: “We are pleased with the start we have made to our Guinness Six Nations campaign but know that a difficult test awaits us in Edinburgh against an in-form Scotland team.

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“The atmosphere is always special for any Calcutta Cup match and I’m sure this weekend’s game at Murrayfield will be no different. This group of players are looking forward to the challenge on Saturday and to creating some very special memories.”

Scotland earlier named a team with three changes from their round two loss to France. Blair Kinghorn and Kyle Steyn were included at full-back and right wing respectively in place of Harry Paterson and Kyle Rowe, while Jamie Ritchie was recalled in place of Matt Fagerson at blindside.

England (vs Scotland, Saturday)
15. George Furbank (Northampton Saints, 6 caps)
14. Tommy Freeman (Northampton Saints, 5 caps)
13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 59 caps)
12. Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby, 21 caps)
11. Elliot Daly (Saracens, 66 caps)
10. George Ford (Sale Sharks, 93 caps) – vice-captain
9. Danny Care (Harlequins, 98 caps)
1. Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears, 59 caps) – vice-captain
2. Jamie George (Saracens, 87 caps) – captain
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 109 caps)
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 78 caps) – vice-captain
5. Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, 20 caps)
6. Ethan Roots (Exeter Chiefs, 2 caps)
7. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 32 caps)
8. Ben Earl (Saracens, 27 caps)

Replacements:
16. Theo Dan (Saracens, 9 caps)
17. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 90 caps)
18. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 35 caps)
19. George Martin (Leicester Tigers, 9 caps)
20. Chandler Cunningham-South (Harlequins, 2 caps)
21. Ben Spencer (Bath Rugby, 4 caps)
22. Fin Smith (Northampton Saints, 1 cap)
23. Immanuel Feyi-Waboso (Exeter Chiefs, 1 cap)

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finn 16 minutes ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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