New captain and fresh faces – Steve Borthwick begins England rebuild in Rome

England will begin rebuilding for the 2027 World Cup when they clash with Italy in Rome on Saturday.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five talking points ahead of the Stadio Olimpico opener.

All change

While picking veteran fly-half George Ford might be an opportunity missed against the Six Nations’ weakest opposition – the inclusion of rookie Fin Smith would have provided a glimpse of the future – Steve Borthwick has shown a willingness to experiment elsewhere. Flanker Ethan Roots and inside centre Fraser Dingwall are given debuts while Smith, exciting wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and back row Chandler Cunningham-South will win their first caps if they step off the bench. Some of the changes have been forced on Borthwick by circumstance but it is still England’s biggest injection of fresh faces in the Six Nations since 2012.

Dingwall’s chance to shine

Fraser Dingwall has his chance to stake a claim at inside centre
Fraser Dingwall has his chance to stake a claim at inside centre (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Release the handbrake

PA graphic
PA graphic

Carrying threats needed

Ben Earl continues at number eight
Ben Earl continues at number eight (Mike Egerton/PA)

Quesada plots Roman ambush

Italy have a new head coach in Argentinian Gonzalo Quesada, who is expected to tighten up the loose game introduced by his predecessor Kieran Crowley. It helped deliver wins against Wales and Australia but the Azzurri self-destructed at the World Cup with crushing losses to New Zealand and France reversing the progress made in the previous 18 months. Since joining the Six Nations in 2000 Italy have recorded a win rate of only 11 per cent and have yet to defeat England in 30 meetings but traditionally they are at their strongest at the start of the tournament as France found out a year ago when they edged home by the skin of their teeth.

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