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Youngs and Curry axed as England cut their squad from 36 to 29

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Chris Ricco/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Steve Borthwick has cut his England squad from 36 to 29 ahead of this Sunday’s Guinness Six Nations round two match at home to Italy, axing Ben Curry – last weekend’s starting openside – along with used replacements Ben Youngs, the most capped England player ever, and Anthony Watson.

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Five England squad forwards have been omitted – Curry, Joe Heyes, Jonny Hill, Bevan Rodd and Sam Simmonds – along with two backs, Youngs and Watson.

Last week, when Borthwick reduced his squad from 36 to 29 ahead of the Scotland match that England went on to lose 23-29, four forwards – Heyes, Hill, Rodd and Jack Willis – were released along with three backs – Alex Mitchell, Caden Murley and Guy Porter.

Video Spacer

England react to loss to Scotland in the Six Nations

Video Spacer

England react to loss to Scotland in the Six Nations

However, when the head coach named his 36-strong strong on Monday to prepare for the Italy match, only five of the seven omitted in midweek a week ago – Heyes, Hill, Rodd, Willis and Mitchell – were asked back and the places that Murley and Porter had occupied went to Henry Arundell and Henry Slade.

Scrum-half Mitchell now stays on with the squad until this weekend game’s, with the veteran Youngs dropping out, Willis has nudged 2021 British and Irish Lions back-rower Simmonds out on this occasion, while the fit-again Arundell has got the jump on Watson, another 2021 Lions tourist.

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Curry, who was playing just his second Test match and his first since July 2021, played just over an hour of last weekend’s Calcutta Cup defeat before giving way to Nick Isiekwe. Youngs had come on some minutes earlier at scrum-half for Jack van Poortvliet while Watson, who arrived into the fray on 64 minutes for Ollie Hassell-Collins, was making his first England appearance since the March 2021 loss in Dublin to Ireland.

England squad (vs Italy)
Forwards (15):
Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, 6 caps)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 96 caps)
Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 10 caps)
Tom Dunn (Bath Rugby, 3 caps)
Ben Earl (Saracens, 14 caps)
Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears, 44 caps)
Jamie George (Saracens, 73 caps)
Nick Isiekwe (Saracens, 9 caps)
Maro Itoje (Saracens, 63 caps)
Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 15 caps)
David Ribbans (Northampton Saints, 3 caps)
Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 57 caps)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 75 caps)
Jack Walker (Harlequins, uncapped)
Jack Willis (Toulouse, 6 caps)

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Backs (14):
Henry Arundell (London Irish, 3 caps)
Owen Farrell (Saracens, 102 caps)
Tommy Freeman (Northampton Saints, 3 caps)
Ollie Hassell-Collins (London Irish, 1 cap)
Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby, 8 caps)
Max Malins (Saracens, 15 caps)
Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 14 caps)
Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, 1 cap)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 52 caps)
Fin Smith (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 18 caps)
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 18 caps)
Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 50 caps)
Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers, 8 caps)

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