Why three of England’s newest faces can gain a first Test cap in Japan and New Zealand

Injuries have previously held Luke Northmore back when it comes to breaking into England's plans
©JMP for Harlequins

The next phase for England is about to get underway with a youthful but extremely exciting squad. 

With many of the old guard having finished their international careers, England’s summer tour to Japan and New Zealand will allow the new generation to begin establishing themselves as key players in Steve Borthwick’s plans.

The England boss has included six uncapped names; Fin Baxter and Luke Northmore from Harlequins, the Sale Sharks duo of Tom Roebuck and Joe Carpenter, Gabriel Oghre [Bristol Bears] and then a recent Premiership winner in Ollie Sleightholme.

And TRU contributor James Orpin feels three individuals in particular are frontrunners to gain an England Test cap whether that is against Japan in Tokyo on June 22nd or a baptism of fire down in New Zealand…

Fin Baxter - Harlequins - Loosehead Prop

After being named in the Gallagher Premiership Team of the Season, the 22-year-old is now the favourite for many to start at loosehead especially with the loss of Ellis Genge to a calf injury. 

His physicality in defence is an eye-catching attribute. It could really have an impact for England as stopping the All Blacks from getting any momentum by halting them on the gain-line could be key to victory this summer.

We have seen him play in games on the big stage before, with standout performances in the Champions Cup away in Bordeaux and in the semi-final against Toulouse.

I hope he is handed the chance to start against Japan to give him some experience before the 1st Test in New Zealand.

Continuing to learn from Quins and now England teammate Joe Marler will obviously aid his development and hopefully by the end of this tour, he is a player who has stamped his name down as one for the future.

Ollie Sleightholme - Northampton Saints - Winger

After admitting this week that he is currently operating at his ideal playing weight, recently crowned Premiership winner Ollie Sleightholme might well be the most in-form player boarding the plane to Japan and New Zealand.

As he finished as the top try-scorer in the Premiership - scoring in the final to help Northampton defeat Bath 25-21 -  you might think that the winger would be a nailed-on starter.

With explosive pace and power and a great work rate to get on the end of moves to score, he can be a success at Test Level.

He does, though, have the tough task of competing with clubmate Tommy Freeman and Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, who both impressed for England during the Six Nations.

I believe he might find it hard to gain a start as it could be between Sleightholme and/or Feyi-Waboso so he may appear on the bench. However, depending on when in the tour that is, he could then potentially stake a claim for a spot in the starting XV.

Luke Northmore - Harlequins - Centre

Northmore’s selection may have been a surprise to a few as the centre hasn’t played a huge amount of rugby this season with only 10 appearances. However, when you consider he has scored four tries in seven matches since March - and what he can bring to this squad - it is a very smart move from Borthwick.

The 27-year-old - who has been hampered by injuries - is a powerful and direct runner whose best trait is the intelligence of his running lines and weighing at 100 kilos means he is capable of getting over the gain-line.

When you match this with a turn of pace and footwork alongside the attribute of being a left-footed kicking option, you can argue he is a blend of both Henry Slade and Ollie Lawrence who are expected to start in midfield following on from the Six Nations.

This makes Northmore a great option for that number 23 shirt because if England were to lose either of their first-choice centres, calling on the former Cardiff Met man wouldn’t change things too much. He is also an attacking option if Borthwick’s side are chasing the game.

It could be him and the previously mentioned Sleightholme who are fighting it out for that final spot on the bench.