The Six Nations – England’s next generation of stars


Hey, have you heard? The Six Nations is only 18 days away! And with it comes the selection of squads; England’s being just around the corner. But who should be in, who should be out? That is the question.

Perhaps this is most important to answer for England who, following a slew of retirements after their third place finish at the World Cup, may use this as an opportunity to plant the seeds for a 2027 World Cup winning squad. English rugby is full of young talents at the moment so here are a few youngsters with the potential to make this year’s squad:

The first of these is Immanuel Feyi-Waboso. A call-up for Exeter’s much-hyped 21-year-old winger sounds likely and we have Exeter University to thank for it; Fey-Waboso reportedly chose England over Wales to stay at Exeter to complete his medical degree. Anyone who has watched the premiership will know of Feyi-Waboso’s skill set: power, tasty footwork, and a keen eye for the try-line having scored five already this season. He can also come off his wing and into the midfield, slightly Jack Nowell-esque, to help generate attack with his try assist against Bristol a notable example of this. This may be useful should England’s attacking woes continue from last year. He is good defensively as well, making good reads when shooting out of the line, and doesn’t mind putting a big hit in every once in a while.

More importantly, his commitment to England is a crucial snag, snatching talent away from Six Nations rivals Wales and adding a bright prospect in a position that lacks English talent. Borthwick’s management of him will be a concern, a repeat of the Arundell saga will want to be avoided, but hopefully he gets an opportunity to showcase his talent this Six Nations.

Fey-Waboso reportedly chose England over Wales to stay at Exeter to complete his medical degree

After Feyi-Waboso much of the hype around Premiership youngsters goes to young props; which is strange considering their role is not often the flashiest. Perhaps steps and tries are out and scrummaging is the new sexy in rugby or, more likely, the hype comes in response to England’s loss against South Africa in the World Cup. The images of Ox Nche decimating England’s scrum still haunts the English public and as a result, there has been a keen eye on the next generation of scrummaging props. Top of that list is Harlequins prop Fin Baxter. A competent scrummager, mobile around the pitch, and Joe Marler’s understudy, Baxter can become England’s future loosehead.

Also keep an eye out for Joe Heyes, who has seriously improved this year, as well as youngsters Ehren Painter, Asher Opoku-Fordjour, and Tarek Haffar.

Another name to remember is Tommy Freeman. One of the standout players in a top of the table Northampton Saints side, Freeman should be a certainty in the England squad. Yes, he has a few caps already, but the level he has played for a few seasons now warrants more. His transition to thirteen this year has been fruitful and although thirteen is not a position of need for England – Lawrence, Slade, and Joseph all impressing as well – his ability to play wing as well provides a utility that should get him in the squad. His defence has improved, he is a strong carrier and assured under the high ball, all traits suited to playing in Borthwick’s system whether he plays wing or centre. He’s also only 22, primed to peak come the 2027 World Cup.

One of the standout players in a top of the table Northampton Saints side, Freeman should be a certainty in the England squad

Alfie Barbeary may be a name worth noting down too. The second best pick up from Bath’s raid of Wasps and Worcester, Barbeary has blossomed into a one-man wrecking ball at number 8 this season. He’s beaten the most defenders out of anyone in the Bath squad and seemingly always generates go-forward ball. However, he will face competition for the number 8 jersey from Ben Earl, England’s best player at the World Cup in the jersey, and Zach Mercer who possesses a more well rounded game than Barbeary. But, at only 23, there’s still room to improve in a position that is relatively new to him and picking him now may only help his development towards becoming an imposing test level number 8.

The Exeter duo of Ethan Roots and Greg Fisilau as well as Michael Pepper, a rare bright spot in Newcastle’s torrid season so far, are also young backrowers with potential to end up on the list.

Image: Like tears in rain via Wikimedia Commons

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