Ethan Roots and Fraser Dingwall to make England debut in Six Nations opener against Italy

Dingwall is one of five Northampton Saints players included in England's matchday squad

England head coach Steve Borthwick has handed debuts to Ethan Roots and Fraser Dingwall for the Six Nations opener against Italy on Saturday.

Dingwall starts at inside centre with Henry Slade partnering him in the midfield while Roots - who has previously represented New Zealand Maori but qualifies to play for England through his father - will start at blindside flanker with Sam Underhill and Ben Earl completing the back row.

The absence of Marcus Smith due to a calf injury means the experienced George Ford will start at fly-half in Rome with Fin Smith set to make his debut from the bench as a cover. Joining Smith are Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and Chandler Cunningham-South, who are the other uncapped players on the bench.

Scrum-half Alex Mitchell has been passed fit to start despite been unable to train until yesterday [Wednesday] because of an infected wound in his leg.

Elsewhere, Jamie George will captain the side with Joe Marler and Will Stuart joining him in the front row while Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum are the preferred locks. England are already without Courtney Lawes, Mako Vunipola, Ben Youngs and Jonny May, who retired from international rugby while Owen Farrell is on a sabbatical from international rugby and is set to move to France in the summer.

"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," said Borthwick.

"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 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."

England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Fraser Dingwall, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Alex Mitchell; 1 Joe Marler, 2 Jamie George (c), 3 Will Stuart, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Ollie Chessum, 6 Ethan Roots, 7 Sam Underhill, 8 Ben Earl

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Chandler Cunningham-South, 21 Danny Care, 22 Fin Smith, 23 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso.

Italy: 15 Tommaso Allan, 14 Ange Capuozzo, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Menoncello, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Alessandro Garbisi; 1 Danilo Fischetti, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 4 Niccolo Cannone, 5 Federico Ruzza, 6 Sebastian Negri,6 Sebastian Negri, 7 Michele Lamaro (c), 8 Lorenzo Cannone.

Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosue Zilocchi, 19 Andrea Zambonin, 20 Edoardo Iachizzi, 21 Manuel Zuliani, 22 Stephen Varney, 23 Lorenzo Pani.