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Youngs, Curry and Watson dropped for Italy clash as England coach Borthwick shows ruthless streak

England’s most capped men’s player Ben Youngs and Ben Curry are DROPPED for Italy clash along with Anthony Watson as new head coach Steve Borthwick shows his ruthless streak following opening Six Nations defeat by Scotland

Ben Youngs and Ben Curry have been released from the England squad preparing to face Italy at Twickenham on Sunday – as an early sign of Steve Borthwick’s ruthless streak as a selector.

The head coach of the national team has sent seven players back to their clubs and the departure from the Red Rose camp of Youngs and Curry proves that Borthwick will not be afraid to make tough calls or ignore stellar reputations. 

He had already shown that by overlooking Manu Tuilagi for the Six Nations opener against Scotland and now he has done so again.

Test centurion Youngs is the country’s most-capped player, but that hasn’t saved the veteran scrum-half – who was part of Borthwick’s Premiership title-winning Leicester squad last season. 

The 33-year-old came on as a replacement against the Scots but appears to have paid a heavy price for his loose kicking as England were chasing the game last Saturday. Alex Mitchell is now poised to win a second cap as under-study to Jack van Poortvliet – as reward for his superb form for Northampton.

England flanker Ben Curry has been dropped for Italy clash after starting against Scotland

Of course, at this stage in his career, there will be doubts about whether Youngs can recover and come again as an England player. 

However, in recent years he has found peaks of performance when his credentials have been questioned, so it may be premature to write Youngs off if he is able to summon another defiant riposte.

For Ben Curry, it is a steep fall from the starting XV to a place outside the group of 29 retained for the clash with the Azzurri. 

The 24-year-old Sale flanker initially seemed to struggle with the extreme physicality of the game against Scotland but appeared to settle and gradually thrive, only to miss a tackle on Ben White which allowed the visiting scrum-half to score a try.

While he goes back to his club, surely resigned to seeing twin brother Tom soon usurp him once more, the starting openside place is now up for grabs, with Jack Willis thought to be the front-runner to wear that No 7 shirt. 

He has acquitted himself well since the sudden, enforced, mid-season move from his beloved Wasps to Toulouse, but Ben Earl has been consistently outstanding for Saracens and he is in contention to replace Curry or burst off the bench again.

Another man who has missed the cut this week is Anthony Watson – who made a comeback against Scotland after a long absence from Red Rose duty. 

He had worked hard to regain full fitness and match sharpness with Leicester, but the veteran wing has missed out as Borthwick and his assistants seek to inject some youthful pace and energy into the back line.

Max Malins is very likely to retain his starting place after an impressive, two-try contribution last weekend, and Ollie Hassell-Collins is also pushing for another shot after his encouraging debut. 

But with the electric Henry Arundell and Tommy Freeman also in camp now, England are set to deploy a revamped back-three combination designed to present a high-tempo threat to the Italian defence.

Veteran scrum-half Ben Youngs has paid a heavy price for his loose kicking last Saturday

Veteran scrum-half Ben Youngs has paid a heavy price for his loose kicking last Saturday

Tuilagi remains in selection contention too and the intrigue is whether his chance of a swift recall are enhanced by the presence of Henry Slade – who was absent injured last week. 

The pair have combined forces to telling effect in midfield in the past, but any reunion would lead to Marcus Smith being reduced to a reserve role, to allow captain Owen Farrell to switch to 10. Ollie Lawrence and Joe Marchant are other centres vying to play – and the latter wore 13 against Scotland.

Borthwick had hinted that he was not afraid to make changes and he has been true to his word. Just like his predecessor, Eddie Jones, he is demonstrating early in his tenure that he is prepared to be ruthless in the impatient quest for rapid improvement.

Anthony Watson has missed the cut for Sunday's Six Nations encounter with Italy in Rome

Anthony Watson has missed the cut for Sunday’s Six Nations encounter with Italy in Rome


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