England’s Alex Mitchell passes late fitness test to start against Italy | Six Nations 2024


Alex Mitchell is a surprise inclusion in England’s starting XV to face Italy on Saturday after making a remarkable recovery from a leg injury and proving his fitness on Thursday morning.

The Northampton scrum-half was forced to sit out training on Monday and Tuesday after arriving at England camp with an infected wound on his leg and was thought to only be in contention for a place on the bench. Steve Borthwick has named the 26-year-old to start England’s Six Nations opener in Rome, however, and picked five uncapped players in his matchday 23.

The quintet are Fraser Dingwall at inside-centre and Ethan Roots at blindside flanker, plus the replacements Fin Smith, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and the 20-year-old Chandler Cunningham-South. All five are eligible for other nations so Borthwick is capturing them for England provided those on the bench take to the field.

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Italy v England teams

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Italy: Tommaso Allan; Ange Capuozzo, Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello, Monty Ioane; Paolo Garbisi, Alessandro Garbisi; Lorenzo Cannone, Michele Lamaro, Sebastian Negri, Federico Ruzza, Niccolò Cannone, Pietro Ceccarelli, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Danilo Fischetti. Replacements: Giacomo Nicotera, Mirco Spagnolo, Giosue Zilocchi, Andrea Zambonin, Edoardo Iachizzi, Manuel Zuliani, Stephen Varney, Lorenzo Pani. 

England: Freddie Steward, Tommy Freeman, Henry Slade, Fraser Dingwall, Elliot Daly; George Ford, Alex Mitchell; Joe Marler, Jamie George (capt.), Will Stuart, Maro Itoje, Ollie Chessum, Ethan Roots, Sam Underhill, Ben Earl. Replacements: Theo Dan, Ellis Genge, Dan Cole, Alex Coles, Chandler Cunningham-South, Danny Care, Fin Smith, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso.

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George Ford has been handed the No 10 jersey with Fin Smith making do with a place on the bench. Mitchell’s availability is a boost for Borthwick given he had already lost Marcus Smith – who was in line to start at fly-half – to injury this week.

Dingwall finally gets his shot having been part of nine previous England squads only to miss out on a first cap while Roots, who has represented the Maori All Blacks, comes straight into the side having joined Exeter in the summer. With Roots eligible for the All Blacks and Fin Smith and Dingwall qualifying for Scotland, Borthwick has moved to tie them to England as well as Feyi-Waboso, who could play for Wales, and Cunningham-South (New Zealand).

Jamie George captains the side for the first time with Joe Marler and Will Stuart the chosen props. Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum are in the second row while Sam Underhill and Ben Earl join Roots in the back row. Itoje, and Ellis Genge, who is among the replacements are vice captains.

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Henry Slade is back in the side at outside-centre having missed out on the World Cup squad while Tommy Freeman makes his first appearance under Borthwick, joining Elliot Daly and Freddie Steward in the back-three. Theo Dan, Dan Cole, Alex Coles and Danny Care are the other replacements.



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