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The England verdict on fifth different midfield combo in seven games

By Liam Heagney
England's Ollie Lawrence (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England are hopeful their latest midfield combination in the struggling Steve Borthwick era won’t fluff its lines next Saturday at Twickenham. The decision to pair Ollie Lawrence and Joe Marchant together at centre to face Wales is the fifth different partnership named by Borthwick in his seven-match tenure.

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The coach began his reign as Eddie Jones’ successor by putting Owen Farrell in with Marchant last February against Scotland but after switching Farrell inside to fly-half, the next three Guinness Six Nations matches witnessed a midfield combination of Lawrence with Henry Slade.

England finished the championship with Manu Tuilagi teaming up with Slade and they picked up the thread five months later by selecting Guy Porter and Marchant together for last weekend’s opening Summer Nations Series fixture away to Wales.

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World Cup warm up highlights | The Breakdown

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World Cup warm up highlights | The Breakdown

Porter and Slade, who appeared off the bench at the Principality, were then both omitted from the Rugby World Cup squad named by Borthwick last Monday.

The head coach suggested at that announcement that a brand-new partnership of Tuilagi with Lawrence was a possibility heading into the World Cup, but Tuilagi missing training the next day at Teddington put that idea on ice for now.

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Instead, Borthwick has gone with a different new combination in Lawrence with Marchant and it will intriguing to see what unfolds as Lawrence, in seven of the eight starts he has previously made with England, had Slade as his midfield partner.

Farrell versus Scotland in February 2021 was Lawrence’s only other centre partner as a starter, but with the England skipper set to line out at fly-half in this warm-up rematch against the Welsh, Borthwick is excited by this weekend’s fresh 12/13 selection.

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“What I am expecting from every player is they bring all the strengths onto the pitch in the England shirt,” began Borthwick after he named an England team on Thursday that had 11 changes from the XV that started last weekend in Cardiff.

“Ollie Lawrence performed really well throughout last season, had a challenging time with what happened with his club [Worcester]. He changed clubs (to Bath) early in the season and I thought he played really well in the Six Nations in the four games that he played.

“Joe Marchant was part of the Six Nations and I thought he played very well on Saturday in Cardiff so we have got two excellent centres there, led at fly-half by Owen with his vast experience and his ability to perform at the very top level.”

Skipper Farrell added: “This squad is full of talent littered throughout the whole squad. We are looking forward to it. Personally, having not played for a while, I’m itching to play. Can’t wait.

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“And then with the boys that are outside, they [Lawrence and Marchant] are two talented lads that hopefully can get into the game and show their strengths, which I am sure they will.”

Team Form

Last 5 Games

2
Wins
0
2
Streak
5
11
Tries Scored
12
26
Points Difference
-69
1/5
First Try
1/5
1/5
First Points
2/5
0/5
Race To 10 Points
1/5
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Comments

2 Comments
j
john 338 days ago

Watson also seems to struggle with injury great player but,

M
Mark 339 days ago

It seems Borthwick will be yet another England coach going into a world Cup on a wing and a prayer over Tuilagis fitness....this sorry saga has surely run its course.

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William 1 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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