England head coach Steve Borthwick is set to name his first squad since a third-place finish at last year’s Rugby World Cup.
With retirements, injuries and France-based players barred from selection, there should be a number of fresh faces when the squad is revealed on Wednesday.
So who could force their way into the squad as a new World Cup cycle begins?
Henry Slade – Exeter Chiefs
The 30-year-old was the highest-profile omission from Borthwick’s World Cup squad. The centre, who was picked for the previous two World Cups, appeared in 30 of England’s 37 Tests before the tournament in France but missed out on the final 33-man squad.
Since then, Slade has gone to a new level of form and consistency with Exeter Chiefs. Six tries this season and match-winning kicks against Gloucester, Toulon and Glasgow indicate he is very much still a player for the big occasions.
With Manu Tuilagi likely to miss the start of the Six Nations because of injury and Joe Marchant now ineligible because he plays his rugby in France for Stade Francais, it means there will be a new centre pairing come the Six Nations.
Immanuel Feyi-Waboso – Exeter Chiefs
The Cardiff-born winger represented Wales at age-grade level and had been tipped for a call-up to Warren Gatland’s squad.
However, it looks like the 21-year-old, who qualifies for England through family heritage, will choose England over Wales.
Feyi-Waboso moved from Cardiff to Wasps in 2022 before switching to Exeter later that year after Wasps’ demise.
His speed, strength and footwork make him one of the most dangerous wingers in the Premiership.
He has scored five tries in the league this season, with his most recent being a spectacular acrobatic finish against Northampton.
As well as being a key player in the rebuilding of Exeter’s youthful team, he is also studying for a medical degree at Exeter University,
Alfie Barbeary – Bath
“You can become the premier ball-carrier in European rugby,” the words of Bath head coach Johann van Graan to his new recruit.
The Bath number eight was previously invited into the England camp by Eddie Jones after impressing for Wasps in his debut Premiership season. However, injuries prevented the powerful forward from any further involvement.
Still only 23, his move to Bath has rejuvenated the former hooker.
Despite being sent off in Sunday’s Champions Cup victory over Racing 92, the forward put in an impressive performance on both sides of the ball to show he is one of the most destructive ball-carriers in Europe.
With Courtney Lawes retiring from international rugby, Jack Willis no longer eligible and Tom Curry’s injury ruling him out the Six Nations, England are in need of fresh back-row options.
Tommy Freeman – Northampton Saints
The 22-year-old was another young talent identified by former head coach Jones. Freeman started both Test victories over Australia in 2022 on the wing but subsequently lost his place in the side.
As a utility back who can play centre, wing and full-back he offers the versatility that Borthwick looks for in a squad. Eleven tries this season indicates he has added a finishing instinct which both Jones and Borthwick may have believed was the final component missing from his game.
Allowed a free role at Saints, his starring performance against Bayonne on Friday was the perfect example of how he floats off his wing to marry his smart running lines and power ball carrying.
Asher Opoku-Fordjour – Sale Sharks
The teenage Sale prop shocked Harlequins’ Joe Marler in only his second Premiership game, winning a scrum penalty which resulted in a wry smile from the England international.
Sale head coach Alex Sanderson tried but failed to play down the hype for the 19-year-old tight-head after his European debut against Stade Francais last month.
“He is doing things that I have never seen 18, 19-year-old props do before,” he said.
The youngster has freakish strength at scrum time because of his “fast twitch” muscle fibres which you “just don’t get anymore” in tight-heads, according to Sanderson.
Opoku-Fordjour, who has come off the bench in Sale’s European games against Stade, Leinster and Stormers, might be a little bit too raw but England are looking for new talent with Dan Cole nearing the end of his England career and Kyle Sinckler struggling for form and fitness.
In addition, England are currently without loose-head props Marler and Bevan Rodd because of injury, while Ellis Genge is a doubt because of injury and Mako Vunipola has retired from international rugby.
Opoku-Fordjour featured last season for England under-20s at loose-head at both the Six Nations and World Championship in South Africa.
Fin Smith – Northampton Saints
The Northampton Saints fly-half, like Barbeary, has been in the England camp before after being selected by Borthwick in last season’s Six Nations squad.
Only 20 at the time, Smith was able to learn off Owen Farrell, George Ford and Marcus Smith and has taken his game to another level this season, helping the Saints to the top of the Premiership and qualify for the knockout stage of the Champions Cup.
With Farrell pulling out of the Six Nations in order to prioritise his and his family’s mental wellbeing and Ford’s recent injury setback, there may be a slot opening up for the in-form fly-half.
Although small in stature, Smith has a measured kicking game and is an assured goal kicker, as demonstrated in his near faultless display off the tee against Bayonne.
With namesake Marcus Smith’s ability to play at full-back, the 21-year-old Saints star could even be eyeing up the starting jersey.
Reports have suggested Scotland are also interested in Smith because of his family heritage, which might prompt Borthwick to get the former Worcester Warrior involved now rather than risk losing him.