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

Ethan Roots and Fraser Dingwall

Guinness Six Nations: Italy v England

Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Date: Saturday, 3 February Kick-off: 14:15 GMT

Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra; live text and post-match highlights on BBC Sport website and app; watch live on ITV1

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.

George Ford starts at fly-half with Marcus Smith ruled out for at least two matches with a calf injury.

Uncapped trio Chandler Cunningham-South, Fin Smith and Immanuel Feyi-Waboso have been named on the bench.

"Marcus will go back to England and have further investigations later this week. He won't be available next week," said head coach Steve Borthwick.

"We're not sure exactly when [he'll be fit]. Hopefully he will play in the latter part of the Six Nations, but it will be a number of weeks. We'll know more next week."

However, Alex Mitchell has recovered from a leg wound to take his place at scrum-half and fellow Northampton Saint Tommy Freeman has been rewarded for his impressive form with a starting berth on the wing.

Hooker Jamie George's tenure as captain will begin in Rome as England seek to build on their third-place finish at the World Cup.

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."

New Azzurri head coach Gonzalo Quesada has named his first side since he replaced Kieran Crowley.

Lock Federico Ruzza is set to win his 50th cap, while the Garbisi brothers - fly-half Paolo and scrum-half Alessandro - make their first start together in a Test match.

Flanker Michele Lamaro is the only captain to retain the role from last year's Six Nations while Tommaso Menoncello returns to the side at inside centre after missing the World Cup with injury.

The hosts have been forced into a couple of late changes. Wing Ange Capuozzo is ill so Lorenzo Pani steps in from the bench, and replacement flanker Edoardo Iachizzi is out with a shoulder injury, so the uncapped Alessandro Izekor is drafted in.

Italy claimed the Wooden Spoon last year and have never beaten England, but former Argentina fly-half Quesada says his players have quickly adapted to the introduction of his "new methodologies".

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 the powerful ball carrying of 20-year-old flanker Cunningham-South.


Italy: Allan; Pani, Brex, Menoncello, Ioane; P Garbisi, A Garbisi; Fischetti, Lucchesi, Ceccarelli, N Cannone, Ruzza, Negri, Lamaro (capt), L Cannone.

Replacements: Nicotera, Spagnolo, Zilocchi, Zambonin, Izekor, Zuliani, Varney, Mori

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

Readers' team

On Monday we asked for your England starting XV to face Italy.

In the forwards, Ellis Genge and Ben Curry differ to Borthwick's starting side, with Smith and Feyi-Waboso in the backs the only other changes.

Smith (42.71%) edged out Ford (40.13%) for the number 10 shirt. Captain George (92.91%) received the most votes to start, followed by Itoje (78.05%) and Freddie Steward (71.41%).

Readers' starting England XV: Steward; Freeman, Slade, Dingwall, Feyi-Waboso; Smith, Mitchell; Genge, George (capt), Stuart, Itoje, Chessum, B Curry, Underhill, Earl.

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