Predicting England's strongest starting XV for the World Cup
By Rugby Onslaught

Predicting England’s strongest starting XV for the World Cup

England start their World Cup with a bang, facing their toughest match of the pool stages against Argentina on the opening weekend.

While Steve Borthwick might have wanted a slightly easier match to ease his side into the tournament, it does mean that everyone gets a glimpse of what he thinks his strongest side is right from the outset.

After Borthwick named his 33-man squad for the World Cup today, here is a stab at his strongest XV that will likely line-up against the Pumas:

1 Ellis Genge 
This one is obvious, as is the entire front row. Genge has captained England in Owen Farrell’s absence and has been one of their best performers over the past 18 months.

2 Jamie George
With Luke Cowan-Dickie not in the squad due to injury, and with back up hookers Theo Dan and Jack Walker having a combined four caps between them, the two time British & Irish Lions tourist George is more or less guaranteed to start in England’s big games.

3 Kyle Sinckler
Like Genge at loosehead, Sinckler has been England’s go-to tighthead for a while, and that is unlikely to change.

4 Maro Itoje
Who else?

5 David Ribbans 
If Borthwick wants England to gain any kind of physical supremacy over their opponents, Ribbans might well be crucial. The Toulon-bound lock is comfortably England’s biggest second-row as all other options are lock-flanker hybrids, so he will bring some much needed physicality.

6 Courtney Lawes
While many may see Lawes as a lock still, he has almost exclusively been used as a flanker since the 2019 World Cup for both club and country, and it is unlikely Borthwick will change anything there. If fit and firing, he brings a lot to England, but he will be pushed all the way by Jack Willis.

7 Tom Curry
One of the first names on the team sheet every match, Curry will surely start England’s crucial matches. Willis also provides stiff competition for the No7 shirt.

8 Billy Vunipola
In what was once a No8 landscape that had Alex Dombrandt, Sam Simmonds, Zach Mercer, Tom Willis and Vunipola all competing to make the squad, only one specialist No8 remains, so the veteran will surely be first choice.

9 Ben Youngs
Youngs may have not featured for England during the Six Nations, but no one staked a strong enough case to wrestle the No9 shirt from England’s most capped player.

10 Owen Farrell 
Marcus Smith and George Ford are perfectly viable options in the No10 jersey, but the England captain Farrell will obviously take it. There is always the possibility of a Smith-Farrell 10-12 combination, but that has failed to fire so far.

11 Anthony Watson
With plenty of utility backs in the squad, there is no lack of competition for the No11 and No14 shirts, but Watson is a five-cap Lions winger.

12 Manu Tuilagi 
Though Tuilagi has not necessarily been firing on all cylinders in an England shirt over the last year, he appeared to be nearing his best form towards the end of the season with Sale Sharks. If that trajectory continues, he is a must-start.

13 Elliot Daly 
The No13 jersey has long been filled by Henry Slade for England, but the Exeter Chief star’s complete absence opens the door for a number of players. Though he missed a large chunk of the season through injury, Daly was playing some of his best ever rugby for Saracens at the beginning of the season at outside centre. His relationship with Farrell and his strong left-footed kicking game will probably be the deciding factor in his inclusion.

14 Max Malins 
As well rounded as wingers come, Malins will likely start in England’s crunch games, leaving Henry Arundell to provide some magic from the bench.

15 Freddie Steward
Steward has been an absolute certainty for England for a while, and it would be madness if anything changes.