Jonny May and Alex Mitchell to start for England in Rugby World Cup opener against Argentina

Alex Mitchell and Jonny May were not included in England’s original World Cup squad; Tom Curry has recovered from an ankle injury and will play for the first time since May; Dan Cole starts in his fourth World Cup; They kick-off their campaign against Argentina in Pool D on Saturday

        Jonny May and Alex Mitchell to start for England in Rugby World Cup opener against Argentina

England rugby scrum-half Alex Mitchell has been selected to start against Argentina in their opening game of the Rugby World Cup in France

Alex Mitchell and Jonny May will start for England in their World Cup opener against Argentina on Saturday.

The pair were not in Steve Borthwick’s initial World Cup squad but were called up after injuries and will now take to the field in The Stade Velodrome in Marseille.

Elsewhere, Tom Curry starts for the first time since May having recovered from an ankle injury and Dan Cole starts in his fourth World Cup.

Mitchell was omitted from the original 33-man squad named by Borthwick only to be given a reprieve when Jack van Poortvliet suffered a tournament-ending ankle injury.

Having impressed on his first Test start against Fiji, the 26-year-old has retained half-back duties with the aim of adding zip to England’s game, while Danny Care provides support from the bench.

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        Jonny May and Alex Mitchell to start for England in Rugby World Cup opener against Argentina

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Curry makes his first appearance under Borthwick and his maiden outing at any level since Sale lost to Saracens in the Gallagher Premiership final earlier this year after being given the nod at openside.

Curry has been struggling with an ankle injury sustained during training in early August but in an indication of his influence on England, he has been thrust straight into the back row.

Ben Earl has been asked to fill the suspended Billy Vunipola’s boots at number eight with Courtney Lawes leading the side at blindside flanker in the absence of banned captain Owen Farrell.

The race at tighthead prop has been won by 36-year-old Cole, who will be appearing in his fourth World Cup, with previous first-choice Kyle Sinckler missing from the 23 altogether after undertaking “modified” training this week alongside David Ribbans. Borthwick opted for players who had completed full training.

Manu Tuilagi is joined in the centres by Joe Marchant and there is a veteran look to the wings where Elliot Daly and Jonny May are deployed.

May is a second player who was left out of the original World Cup squad but now finds himself in action in the main event of Pool D, which Argentina enter as marginal favourites.

Henry Arundell was available for selection after completing full training following a back spasm but was not selected by Borthwick.

The Pumas prevailed 30-29 in the rivals’ last meeting at Twickenham last November while England are reeling from a run of five defeats in six Tests.

        Jonny May and Alex Mitchell to start for England in Rugby World Cup opener against Argentina

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“With an excellent week of preparation in Le Touquet, the players are now looking forward to starting their World Cup campaign under the lights in Marseille on Saturday,” Borthwick said.

“After a number of impressive performances in the last 12 months by Argentina, we know that the first game in our pool will provide a stern test.

“This great tournament provides an excitingly special opportunity for our players, who I know, as ever, will be giving their all in front of our travelling support in the south of France.”

England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Jonny May, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Alex Mitchell; 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Jamie George, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Ollie Chessum, 6 Courtney Lawes (c), 7 Tom Curry, 8 Ben Earl.

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Stuart, 19 George Martin, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Danny Care, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Ollie Lawrence.

Borthwick: Mitchell deserves his opportunity | Most dangerous Argentina side ever

Following the team announcement, Borthwick was full of praise for Mitchell, who he believes has taken the disappointment of not being included in the original World Cup squad and turned it into an opportunity.

“It is immense credit to Mitchell. He was incredibly disappointed to not make the original squad and I asked every player that I spoke to at that point to ensure they were ready to be the next man in,” said Borthwick.

        Jonny May and Alex Mitchell to start for England in Rugby World Cup opener against Argentina

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“An opportunity opened up and I think one of the positives from Fiji was his performance. I thought he played well, and I think he has trained exceptionally well and he has done what we asked of him and was ready to go.

“Argentina are an exceptionally strong side. In the last year they have beaten England at Twickenham, they have beaten New Zealand, they have beaten Australia.

“They are a formidable challenge, arguably the best Argentina side to come to a World Cup, so we know we have got to be good this weekend but I have got every confidence in the players.

“We have got a great blend in this team of experience and youth, many of whom have performed on the biggest stages previously.

“I sense a real determination from the players to go and perform to the best of their ability on Saturday night.

“I said earlier this week, I sense from the players that they have been written off too early and called time on too early. There is a lot of class in this squad and I think these players have got a hell of a lot more to go.”

Roper: Experience key in tough Argentina test | Massive moment for Mitchell

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Sky Sports News reporter Eleanor Roper:

“This is a huge moment for Alex Mitchell. He initially was not named by Borthwick in the 33-man World Cup squad.

“Initially, it was Been Youngs, Danny Care and Jack Van Poortvliet.

“Unfortunately for Jack, he injured himself in one of the warm-ups, required surgery and was ruled out for the entirety of the World Cup.

“In comes Mitchell with six England caps so he doesn’t have a lot of International experience.

“He played against Fiji – that was his first England start and now getting the nod from Borthwick to start on Saturday in what is a huge, huge test.

        Jonny May and Alex Mitchell to start for England in Rugby World Cup opener against Argentina

Former England full-back Jason Robinson believes Steve Borthwick’s current squad has a lot of work to do in order to overcome their poor form and succeed at the Rugby World Cup

“There is no doubt about it, this is England’s toughest challenge of the group stages.

“Coming off a poor Six Nations and poor Summer Series, it is a huge test for England on Saturday.

“Experience plays a huge factor in this. In the initial 33-man squad named by Borthwick, 16 of those players were involved four years ago in 2019 when England reached the final.

“It has been a really disappointing run and a challenging time for England.

“They have seen captain Owen Farrell banned as well as Billy Vunipola.

“Borthwick is going to be looking to the more experienced players come Saturday and just hoping with that experience they can really deliver a result when it matters – and it does matter this Saturday.

“England want to progress from the group and a win against Argentina will be key to that.”

Argentina pick six forwards on the bench against England

Argentina’s Juan Cruz Mallia returns at full-back to face England as coach Michael Cheika opted for six forwards on the bench.

Mallia is part of a back three with goal-kicker Emiliano Boffelli and Mateo Carreras on the wings and a powerful midfield of Santiago Chocobares and Lucio Cinti. Santiago Carreras is at fly-half and Gonzalo Bertranou gets the nod at number nine.

The team is captained by hooker Julian Montoya, who packs down with props Thomas Gallo and Francisco Gomez Kodela, while the second row is made up of Matias Alemanno and Tomas Lavanini. Former captain Pablo Matera is on the flank along with Marcos Kremer, and Juan Martin Gonzalez is at number eight, as Cheika took the unusual step, for him at least, of naming a 6-2 split between forwards and backs on his bench.

Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (c), 1 Thomas Gallo

Replacements: 16 Augustin Creevy, 17 Joel Sclavi, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Pedro Rubiolo, 21 Rodrigo Bruni, 22 Lautaro Bazan Velez, 23 Matias Moroni.

Follow England’s opening Rugby World Cup match against Argentina across Sky Sports’ digital platforms from 7.30pm, kick-off 8pm on Saturday.