Head coach Steve Borthwick insists that Manu Tuilagi’s England career is not over after he left the robust runner out of his first matchday 23 for the Calcutta Cup clash against Scotland.
Instead of Tuilagi, Borthwick has opted for the Marcus Smith-Owen Farrell axis at 10 and 12 that did not fire under former boss Eddie Jones. However, there are hopes the pair will find their best under the new coaching regime.
The coach claims it is positive to have great players failing to make the matchday squad as it shows promising depth in the England ranks.
“I am picking the team for this week, and there is competition for places,” said Borthwick.
“The nature is that there should always be good players not in the 23 because that is what we want with England. We want depth in every position, and players fighting for the shirt.
“This is the selection for this game, against a specific opponent, and next week is a new week.”
Borthwick commended Tuilagi’s professionalism and said the centre trained well even after being snubbed for the Scotland Test.
“Manu was the incredible professional that he is. We spoke, I told him what I had decided, selection wise, and why I had,” he said.
“We shook hands and then he went and trained really hard and that reaction is testimony to him and his character.”
Despite the shortcomings of the Smith-Farrell axis under Jones, Borthwick believes the combination will work for the Test at Twickenham, particularly with Joe Marchant at outside centre.
“It is the right combination for this game. Joe Marchant at 13 works really well with Marcus,” he explained. “You see how those two connect, both with ball in hand, and the great attacking kicks that Marcus has and the way Joe finds those.
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“Owen has played really well in the 12 shirt for many years, and some of England’s best performances have been with Owen in the 12 shirt. He has talked to me in the past about how he enjoys playing with other ball players.”
Blend of experience
The coach is happy with the blend of youth and experience in his matchday squad and is raring to go in his first Test at the helm of the Red Rose.
“The England team that will play against Scotland have great, experienced players, and it also has exciting young talent and new combinations that will compliment that experience,” added Borthwick.
“There are a lot of players who have been fighting for an England opportunity for a period of time and now they have got their opportunity.
“The players are determined to represent their country with the fight that our supporters deserve and expect. We are really looking forward to it.”