English Rugby
Borthwick facing England axe
July 1, 2010
England captain Steve Borthwick barks out a lineout call, England training session, Pennyhill Park, Bagshot, Surrey, England, February 2, 2010
Saracens lock Steve Borthwick could be a casualty when Martin Johnson announces his latest England squad © Getty Images

Saracens lock Steve Borthwick is set to be dropped when England manager Martin Johnson announces his latest elite squad on Thursday.

Borthwick, who was Johnson's first choice as captain for the first 20 Tests of his tenure, sat out the recent tour to Austraila and New Zealand with a knee injury and will have seen Gloucester's Dave Atwood, Stade Francais' Tom Palmer and Northampton's Courtney Lawes all impress in his absence.

Atwood is in line to take Borthwick's place in the squad and veteran Wasps lock Simon Shaw is also set to retain his place. The news will come as a fresh blow to the 30-year-old Borthwick having also lost the captaincy of the side to flanker Lewis Moody.

Attwood, 23, boasts just the kind of toughness and aggression Johnson believes is missing from his England team just 15 months out from the World Cup. England used 46 players during their five-match tour and Johnson left New Zealand at the end of last week with a few other tough decisions to make.

It is conceivable hooker Lee Mears and wing Ugo Monye, both of whom were British & Irish Lions Test players last summer, could also miss out on selection following a loss of form. Mears has dropped behind George Chuter in the pecking order while Steve Thompson and Dylan Hartley are set to fill the other two hooking berths.

Monye is more likely to get the nod but he is competing with Matt Banahan and David Strettle for two wing places. Mark Cueto and Chris Ashton are guaranteed selections. Mathew Tait lost his place in the Test 22 during the tour and is likely to be replaced by Wasps centre Dominic Waldouck while Riki Flutey could return from injury. Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood are likely to be the fly-halves with Ben Youngs, Danny Care and Joe Simpson the scrum-half options.

Up front, Andrew Sheridan is fit again after missing most of last season and he would strengthen England's already impressive front row options if called upon. Phil Vickery could also come into consideration, though Dan Cole and David Wilson represent the future and Johnson clearly has to start thinking about the World Cup.

Dan Ward-Smith and Chris Robshaw have both pressed their cases for selection in the back row, while Hendre Fourie, Steffon Armitage and Tom Rees are competing for places as Moody's openside understudy.

The squad is set to be announced at 2pm (BST).

© Scrum.com

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