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Kudos for No9 Mitchell, but England coy on wing selection vs Samoa

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Ramos/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Richard Wigglesworth has paid tribute to Alex Mitchell for coming into the England squad as an emergency Rugby World Cup call-up and going on to quickly impress at the tournament. The Northampton scrum-half was cut from Steve Borthwick’s plans at the end of June after just two weeks of international squad training.

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However, a serious ankle injury to Jack van Poortvliet in the August 12 Summer Nations Series match versus Wales at Twickenham resulted in Mitchell belatedly getting selected for France 2023 and he has since worked his way to the top of the No9 pecking order ahead of veteran duo Danny Care and Ben Youngs.

Mitchell started both Pool D wins over Argentina and Japan and he is expected to be the starting scrum-half this Saturday against Samoa in Lille after the jersey was taken by Care last time out versus Chile.

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Assistant coach Wigglesworth, a former Test-playing scrum-half himself, expressed delight that Mitchell has fitted in snappily and will ultimately be aiming to start the looming October 15 quarter-final in Marseille, most likely against Fiji.

“Steve asked everyone to be ready,” said Wigglesworth, reflecting on Mitchell’s journey from surplus to requirement to now being at the hub of the World Cup action. “He is a great example to everyone in and around the squad, next man in, what is possible.

Team Form

Last 5 Games

3
Wins
1
1
Streak
3
13
Tries Scored
12
-5
Points Difference
13
2/5
First Try
0/5
2/5
First Points
1/5
1/5
Race To 10 Points
2/5

“Came in, took his chance, and has looked really sharp. Testament to him and his character. Brilliant character around the squad as well. Just always ready to go. Gives the group good energy.

“George (Ford) because of his performance in that Argentina game got a lot of the headlines but his half-back partner controlled it when we were down to 14 men and his skill set executed that brilliantly, which is what we needed at the time.

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“We know how sharp he is and how quick to the breakdown, how good his service is. In different games has been top-drawer as well.

“That’s every game of rugby, you have got to make good decisions about what is in front of you. That’s what we are aiming to do, come up with the plan to play the best way and get a result.”

It will be Thursday evening when England confirm their team to take on the Samoans in their Pool D finale and Wigglesworth was giving away nothing about a selection where it will be intriguing to see if Henry Arundell, the scorer of five tries against Chile, will be retained on the wing.

“It’s about balance,” he said about the style of wingers that England choose. “You definitely can’t ask me about the selection process, no. It would be about balance for the team.

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“I want them to bring their best game to the field. I’m not going to change how Elliot Daly plays on the wing and try and get Henry Arundell to play like him or vice versa or for any of them.”

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