England confirm squad to face Ireland with Arundell set for full debut

England announce team to play Ireland with wonderkid Henry Arundell given his first start, while Owen Farrell reclaims the No 10 shirt from Marcus Smith for Six Nations showdown

  • Steve Borthwick is set to unleash Arundell from the start against Ireland  
  • The England head coach is seeking to shake things up after heavy loss to France 
  • Arundell missed the autumn campaign with a foot injury and has earned a shot 

Owen Farrell has reclaimed the England No 10 shirt and will captain the national team against Grand Slam-chasing Ireland in Dublin on Saturday – while Henry Arundell makes his first Test start.

As reported by Mail Online Sport on Wednesday, Farrell has been brought back as the starting fly-half in place of Marcus Smith, who drops to the bench. Head coach Steve Borthwick has opted to revert to the 2019 midfield combination which worked so well in victory over the Irish in Dublin, by recalling Manu Tuilagi at inside centre alongside Henry Slade, after Ollie Lawrence was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Up front, Northampton lock David Ribbans has been chosen to start with Maro Itoje in the second row, to fill the void left by the enforced absence of another recent casualty, Ollie Chessum. The starting Red Rose pack is otherwise unchanged, but Lewis Ludlam has been designated as a vice-captain, as has Ellis Genge – who led the side last weekend in the grim 53-10 defeat against France.

Arundell has been promoted to the first-choice XV on the wing ahead of Max Malins. London Irish’s 20-year-old back-three sensation has won six caps so far, all of them as a replacement. He made cameo appearances off the bench in the last three rounds of the Six Nations, after missing the whole autumn campaign last year due to a foot injury.

Henry Arundell is set to be given his first England star against Ireland in their Six Nations clash

Arundell required surgery and it was feared that he would miss this entire championship. However, he recovered sooner than expected and was fast-tracked straight back into the Red Rose squad.

When he made his first appearance for the national team at Twickenham, last month, he marked the proud occasion with a try – a simple finish in the left corner after a weaving run and pass by Alex Mitchell, to put him clear. It was another landmark early-career moment, after Arundell touched down on his England debut last summer.

It was actually his very first touch at international level which yielded a try, to increase the hype around this dazzling, break-through talent. Having been sent on by Eddie Jones in the closing stages of the series opener against Australia in Perth, Arundell stunned the Wallaby defence by cutting in-field, blasting between two tacklers and accelerating away to strike.

It was yet another indication that a rare talent was emerging. Last season, while still a teenager, footage of Arundell’s feats went viral on social media as he ran amok for England’s Under 20s in the junior Six Nations. Soon after, the fanfare grew louder when the flying Exile took a pass on his own line during a European fixture at Toulon and slalomed through the home team to score a stunning, length-of-the-field wonder try.

Jones couldn’t resist inviting him into the senior squad at the first opportunity, after Arundell had made just six appearances for Irish. When England travelled Down Under, he was regarded as an ‘apprentice’ – selected to gain experience of the Test environment. Instead, he caused mayhem with long-range tries in training and a series of Red Rose players revealed a mood of shock and awe in the ranks, about the rookie’s remarkable exploits behind the scenes.

Arundell has been out injured in recent months but showed his quality in cameo appearances. Pictured: Speaking to attacking coach Nick Evans in training

Steve Borthwick hopes he can provide the X-factor from the off after crushing loss to France

Now, Borthwick appears to have decided it is time to let him loose from the start – a bold decision which should dissipate some of the gloom following England’s crushing 53-10 defeat at the hands of France last weekend. Ireland are bound to target him, to see how he copes in defence and under the high ball, but if they kick to him in space, they could pay dearly, given his electric pace, deadly footwork and prolific finishing.

Arundell’s turbo-charged running ignited his rapid rise to prominence, but during lock-down he worked on strengthening his legs and core, so he is physically robust too. Former Ireland coaches Declan Kidney and Les Kiss have overseen his Exiles development and now the team they once coached are in his sights.

England fans need some cause for hope in these bleak period. Arundell is capable of providing it. If his team-mates can get the ball out to him, he can wreak havoc.

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