In the aftermath of the Rugby World Cup, England faces profound uncertainties ahead of the Six Nations. Despite finishing third in the World Cup, the team faces several challenges regarding squad depth and continuity.
With Owen Farrell withdrawing from the Six Nations, it opened up a fresh set of problems for coach Steve Borthwick in picking the next captain. Now, rumors from France are that Owen Farrell has signed a new contract with Racing 92, potentially making him unavailable for England selection in the next two seasons.
Borthwick Acknowledges Changes
Ahead of the Six Nations, coach Borthwick acknowledged the changes in the side and stressed that there is a temporary need to enhance the team’s attacking strategies. This strategy might be a consolation for the fans who already have Six Nations tickets, but this is by no means a solution.
However, the concerns of star players leaving for France raise questions about the importance of the England jersey. Contract issues are emerging with the senior players forming Team England Rugby Ltd to represent them in financial interests, and they still need to be solved.
Despite the challenges, Borthwick has reassured everyone with Six Nations tickets that the national team has their enthusiasm at a high level and has more emerging players showing up for the side. The squad prepares for regional gatherings and a training camp before their Six Nations opener against Italy.
In line with the Six Nations, one of the biggest challenges the English side has faced is player abuse, and the coach wants to combat these concerns head-on. Speaking to the media earlier, Borthwick added that there is a commitment from the RFU to combat such issues and will have protocols in place to prevent further events.
England players, including captain Owen Farrell, were at the center of online abuse after their exit in the semifinals, and this sparked an outcry from the players and loyal fans towards the RFU to take action.
Borthwick highlighted that the side has ample promising talent, with Henry Slade and Tommy Freeman coming up the ranks. With Ben Earl set to return, the side has formidable players in the third row.
Vunipola Available for Six Nations Despite Ban
Saracens and England national cap Mako Vunipola was the center of attention yet again after he was sent off in the game involving Newcastle for a dangerous tackle on Bryan Byrne. The ban sidelines him for the upcoming Saracens games, but he will be available for England’s Six Nations opener.
This availability should help fix England’s front-row issues with the side currently troubled with prop injuries.
An independent panel handled the Vunippola case after he admitted foul play. Due to his prior completion of World Rugby’s coaching intervention program in 2022, he’s ineligible for it this time. Had it been otherwise, he could have evaded it entirely with a single-match suspension.
In another scenario, Exeter’s Director of Rugby praised Henry Slade for his impactful season, earning him his England jersey for the Six Nations. Slade missed out on making it to the Rugby World Cup, but his performance this season for Exeter has won him a place back.
Immanuel Feyi-Waboso Wants to Play for England
Exeter’s talented winger, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, wants to represent England over Wales, which could prove vital for the development of coach Steve Borthwick in line with the Six Nations.
Feyi-Waboso represented Wales at U20 levels and is now set to join the England camp this week, which signals a potential shift in his allegiance. While the youngster has joined the camp, it does not necessarily mean he will be included in the team lineup ahead of the Six Nations.
Speaking about the inclusion, Borthwick acknowledged the youngster’s standout performances for Exeter this season, acknowledging the competitive nature of the Premiership and the impressive displays across various teams in both the domestic league and the Champions Cup.
Born and raised in Llandaff, Feyi-Waboso started his professional career before joining Wasps. Later, he moved to Exeter and qualified for England through his family roots.
Alongside his professional career, he is also pursuing a medical career at Exeter University.
Regardless of the Six Nations inclusion, the youngster’s news sits well with the fans and those who already have Six Nations tickets. If things go according to plan, the youngster will debut for England A against Portugal in February.
Sir Clive Woodward Wants Rule Change
Rugby legend Sir Clive Woodward is rallying the national body for a major rule change in their approach to allow Owen Farrell to continue to play for the national side, even if he joins Racing 92 in France.
Sir Woodward is speaking what every English rugby fan with Six Nations tickets wants to hear – a rule change.
The current English rugby rule stands at a point where players who play only in the local tournaments are eligible for national selection. Earlier, Maro Itoje had intended to leave the domestic setup, but England rugby stepped in to create a hybrid contract to keep him in line for national selection.
This hybrid model where the RFU supports player wages is a good move, but the question arises on what basis would you provide this incentive and for how many.
To make it more open and transparent, Woodward suggests that the inflexibility of the RUF is hindering the progress England Rugby can make in the next decade. He brings Farrell as an example of how situations of this nature can be solved amicably with a simple rule change.
“The RFU should abandon this policy on foreign selection,” added Woodward. “Farrell’s move is opening up the absurdity of the policy and how England rugby lags in adopting.”
Expressing his dissatisfaction, he emphasized the need for change in regulation, stating that players should be eligible for English selection, even if they are playing their rugby elsewhere.
He warns that Farrell’s situation might mean he will return to play for England again with prompt revisions. Earlier, Farrell took a personal break from international rugby following the toll of fan abuse aimed at him and his family.
With his age, if Farrell ends up leaving, the chances of him returning are very thin. Along with the financial incentive and the ability to play the sport he loves without any pressure and abuse, Farrell would love to stay in France.
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