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The giddy prediction England have made about Henry Arundell

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Steve Borthwick has insisted he is right to hand Henry Arundell his first England Test start at the age of just 20 in Saturday’s massive Grand Slam decider versus Ireland. The unbeaten Irish are raging hot favourites to complete a championship clean sweep for just the fourth time in their history against an English team that has limped into Dublin on the back of their humiliating 53-10 home defeat to France.

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Borthwick reacted by making four changes to his starting team and he claimed he has no qualms over including the rookie Arundell at the expense of Max Malins. The London Irish youngster burst onto the international scene when scoring a try with his first touch when debuting off the bench versus Australia last July.

He was capped twice more as a sub on that tour and having since recovered from a serious foot injury that required an operation, he has now been backed for his first England start after three more appearances off the bench, cameos that included a try versus Italy in Six Nations round two and that bizarre, token 80th-minute introduction in the following round in Wales.

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While his match minutes have been restricted, Borthwick claimed that what he had seen on the training ground in Pennyhill was the reason why England have now handed Arundell his maiden Test start. “He is a young player with an enormous future in front of him,” he reckoned.

“It is really important that we think he is the right player to play in this game. We have seen glimpses of him. Unfortunately for the first half of this season, he has not played an awful lot of rugby due to injury but seeing what he has been producing in training, he is an incredibly exciting player.

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“You see a number of young players that are experiencing substantial game time in the Six Nations for the first time. It’s Henry’s first Six Nations, JVP (Jack van Poortvliet), Alex Mitchell, Ollie Lawrence, Alex (Dombrandt), Lewis (Ludlam), Ben Curry and these guys – this is enormous for us to really understand where we are and what we need to prioritise.

“Henry is a very composed, calm young man and he has got the capability to excel in international rugby.”

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Handing Arundell just his seventh cap in preference of giving Malins what would have been his 18th underlined the element of inexperience existing in some areas of Borthwick’s England XV against a more experienced Ireland. However, the coach insisted his England team will be up for the challenge after last week’s harrowing loss to France.

“We know what a good side they [Ireland] are and you can see that, I think it is over 1,000 caps they have got in their 23. The experience they have got is enormous. We know we are going to have to be much improved from last week and I know the players are determined to put in that much-improved performance. Their attitude has been excellent.”

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Turlough 5 hours ago
'Let them keep talking' - Mike Catt claps back over Bok remarks

“You want that – not hatred – but whatever it is that stirs it all up. It’s good.” Agree with this. If you can put a common motivating idea in all your players heads during a game it can produce a real Team perfromance. Erasmus is pretty expert at this. It is quite clear that the comments by Etzebeth, Allende and others were not coincidence and were actioned to create animoisty before the series in order to galvanise the South African mind set. While I understand it, I don’t like it. They result in unnessary vitriol between supporters and for what? I don’t think any of the SA players seriously believe any of these claims and with Ireland ignoring them Erasmus won’t get the escalation he seeks. The vitriol shown by some SA and indeed NZ supporters is extremely weird for NH supporters (OK, maybe England have felt it) but it just feels very odd over a sport. Ireland were more or less sh1t for the first 100 years of their rugby, they have improved significantly in the last 25 to be in a position around now (it may not last) to go into a match with the big guns with a real shot of winning. The reaction to this from some SH supporters has been bizarre with conspiracy theories of ‘Arrogance’ fueling abuse from supporters and even NZ players to Irish crowds during the world cup. I love International rugby and the comraderie between supporters. I genuinely dread and dislike the atmosphere around games with the southern giants. They take this very personally. NH teams: play them, try and beat them, enjoy the craic with their players and supporters and wish them well. SH teams wish them well and they call you arrogant in the press months later. Its just a matter of try and beat them and then good riddance til the next time.

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