England announce Rugby World Cup training squad as Owen Farrell named captain

Farrell’s uncapped Saracens club-mate Theo Dan was named in the squad by coach Steve Borthwick

Mark Mann-Bryans
Friday 30 June 2023 18:21 BST
Owen Farrell has been confirmed as England captain for the 2023 World Cup (Adam Davy/PA)
Owen Farrell has been confirmed as England captain for the 2023 World Cup (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)

Steve Borthwick has confirmed Owen Farrell as England’s Rugby World Cup captain after naming his 41-strong training squad on Friday morning.

The England head coach made the announcement over two months out from their World Cup opener against Argentina in Marseille on September 9, with Ellis Genge and Courtney Lawes named as vice-captains.

Farrell’s form towards the end of the season with Saracens has silenced any suggestion he will not be the starting fly-half at the finals and now he will lead the team out in France.

Speaking after announcing Farrell as his skipper, Borthwick said: “I’m delighted to announce the England Rugby World Cup training squad.

“I think it’s a great blend of experience and youth I’m also excited to announce the England Rugby World Cup squad will be captained by Owen Farrell and vice-captains will be Ellis Genge and Courtney Lawes.

“I think we’ve got some great leaders in the team. I think that all of them are fantastic players. I met with Owen about 10 days ago. We spent about two hours walking around fields outside Harpenden, talking about everything we wanted to do with his team, everything we wanted to do with this programme, what we wanted to achieve.

“The passion in him, I think he’s a fantastic leader, the players have enormous respect for him and I’m looking forward to the full squad getting together on Sunday night here at the Lensbury (Resort) and start training on Monday morning.”

Farrell’s uncapped club-mate Theo Dan made the cut for the training squad, despite the 22-year-old hooker only making his Saracens debut in November 2021, having delivered a series of impressive displays during the club’s Gallagher Premiership title-winning campaign. There is also a call-up for uncapped back-row forward Tom Willis, who currently plays for Bordeaux-Begles. He joins his brother Jack in the squad.

But Exeter hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie has lost his battle to recover in time from a shoulder injury and will not be considered for World Cup selection, the Rugby Football Union announced. Players named in Borthwick’s previous training group to miss out include Gloucester-bound number eight Zach Mercer, Northampton scrum-half Alex Mitchell and Bath flanker Ted Hill. Dan is among a sizeable group from Premiership finalists Saracens and Sale Sharks called up by Borthwick after they completed a mandatory rest period. That contingent includes the likes of Farrell, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Manu Tuilagi, George Ford and Jonny Hill. 

Tom Willis and Dan apart, the other uncapped players are Harlequins wing Cadan Murley, Gloucester prop Val Rapava-Ruskin and London Irish flanker Tom Pearson. And although not named in the squad, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Ollie Lawrence, Ollie Chessum and Jack Walker will continue their rehabilitation from injuries and remain in contention for England’s final 33-man World Cup group to be announced on August 7.

Addressing the likes of Alex Mitchell and Zac Mercer, as well as others who narrowly missed out on a call-up, Borthwick’s message was clear.

“There are a number of players I have had conversations with who have missed out on selection for this squad,” he added.

“Every one of them, I have said ‘you need to be ready for an opportunity to come in’ and one thing that is consistent in every World Cup, every one of those preparation periods there is something that happens and somebody from outside the squad comes in.

“So the message to every player is ‘Be ready. Be ready if your opportunity comes to be ready to take it.”

Borthwick will name his final squad of 33 players on August 7 with England playing four World Cup warm-up games – facing Wales home and away, Ireland and Fiji – before beginning their tilt at going one step further than 2019, when they lost the final to South Africa.

Training squad: Backs – H Arundell (London Irish), D Care (Harlequins), J Cokanasiga (Bath), E Daly (Saracens), O Farrell (Saracens), G Ford (Sale), M Malins (Saracens), J Marchant (Harlequins), J May (Gloucester), C Murley (Harlequins), G Porter (Leicester), H Slade (Exeter), M Smith (Harlequins), F Steward (Leicester), M Tuilagi (Sale), J van Poortvliet (Leicester), A Watson (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester). 

Forwards – J Blamire (Newcastle), D Cole (Leicester), T Curry (Sale Sharks), T Dan (Saracens), A Dombrandt (Harlequins), B Earl (Saracens), E Genge (Bristol), J George (Saracens), J Hill (Sale), M Itoje (Saracens), C Lawes (Northampton), L Ludlam (Northampton), J Marler (Harlequins), G Martin (Leicester), T Pearson (London Irish), V Rapava-Ruskin (Gloucester), D Ribbans (Northampton), B Rodd (Sale), K Sinckler (Bristol), W Stuart (Bath), S Underhill (Bath), J Willis (Toulouse), T Willis (Bordeaux-Begles).

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