Six Nations 2024: Ethan Roots and Fraser Dingwall to make England debuts against Italy

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Ethan Roots and Fraser Dingwall
Exeter’s Ethan Roots (left) and Northampton’s Fraser Dingwall (right) will both win their first Test caps in England’s Six Nations opener with Italy
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Date: Saturday, 3 February Kick-off: 14:15 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra; live text on BBC Sport website and app; watch live on ITV

Ethan Roots and Fraser Dingwall will make their England debuts against Italy in Rome on Saturday on the opening weekend of the Six Nations.

Dingwall, 24, is named at inside centre alongside the returning Henry Slade and Roots will start at blind-side flanker.

The experienced George Ford will steer England’s attack from fly-half.

England head coach Steve Borthwick has also named the uncapped trio of Chandler Cunningham-South, Fin Smith and Immanuel Feyi-Waboso on the bench.

Hooker Jamie George’s tenure as captain will begin in Rome, while Tommy Freeman is rewarded for his impressive form in Northampton Saints’ charge to the top of the Premiership table with a starting berth on the wing.

“After an excellent week’s preparation in Girona, we look forward to the challenge of playing Italy in Rome,” said Borthwick.

“The Azzurri are a dangerous team, with some talented ball carriers and players who like to find space.

“We’ll need to make good decisions, keep our discipline, and maintain a level of intensity to our performance from the first whistle to the last.”

Speaking about the inclusion of five uncapped players in the matchday 23, Borthwick added: “Winning a first cap for your country is always a very special occasion.

“We’re delighted for the debutants who have all worked incredibly hard to get themselves selected in the 23 to face Italy. I know Saturday will be a very proud moment for the players and their families.

“My message to them this week has been to be themselves, to grasp their opportunity, and to play with the strengths and skills that deservedly got them selected to a strong Six Nations squad.”

The new faces of England’s new era

Five England debuts could be made in the Eternal City. Only once has that number been surpassed, when seven players won their first cap against Scotland in 2012.

It is a clear indication of a new era.

Courtney Lawes, Mako Vunipola, Ben Youngs and Jonny May have retired from international duty, while several players who ply their trade overseas are ineligible for selection and former captain Owen Farrell is taking a break from Test rugby and will move to France at the end of the season.

There is still plenty of experience in the form of George, his vice-captain Ford, veteran prop Joe Marler, lock Maro Itoje and wing Elliot Daly.

But they are supported by a blend of young talent. Dingwall has been involved in 10 previous England camps and finally earns a cap with Farrell and Manu Tuilagi not involved, while 26-year-old New-Zealand born flanker Roots has played his way into the side after a breakout campaign for Exeter Chiefs.

Borthwick has picked players in form and 21-year-old fly-half Fin Smith benefits from his impressive run for Northampton with a spot on the bench.

The talented Feyi-Waboso, 21, is also among the replacements, along with powerful ball carrying of 20-year-old flanker Cunningham-South.

England: Steward; Freeman, Slade, Dingwall, Daly; Ford, Mitchell; Marler, George (capt), Stuart, Itoje, Chessum, Roots, Underhill, Earl.

Replacements: Dan, Genge, Cole, Coles, Cunningham-South, Care, F Smith, Feyi-Waboso