Rugby World Cup: Jonny May replaces injured Anthony Watson in England’s 33-player squad

Jonny May has replaced Anthony Watson in Steve Borthwick’s official 33-player England squad for the Rugby World Cup in France; Jack van Poortvliet is replaced by Alex Mitchell following his ankle problem; England begin their World Cup campaign against Argentina on September 9.

        Rugby World Cup: Jonny May replaces injured Anthony Watson in England's 33-player squad

Jonny May scored England’s first try against Fiji

England have confirmed that Jonny May has replaced Anthony Watson in their squad for the World Cup.

Watson has been ruled out of the tournament by a calf injury so May, who started Saturday’s defeat to Fiji, has filled the gap in the 33-man party to be submitted to World Rugby on Monday.

The only other name missing from the group originally named by Steve Borthwick on August 7 is Jack van Poortvliet, whose ankle problem means he has been replaced by Alex Mitchell.

Elliot Daly and Kyle Sinckler are present as they continue their recovery from respective knee and pectoral injuries.

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        Rugby World Cup: Jonny May replaces injured Anthony Watson in England's 33-player squad

England head coach Steve Borthwick confirms that Anthony Watson will miss the Rugby World Cup because of a calf problem but has backed him to bounce back quickly.

England will be without captain and fly-half Owen Farrell and No 8 Billy Vunipola for the start of the competition after both were handed suspensions for high tackles.

Borthwick’s side enter the World Cup having just been beaten by Fiji for the first time, losing 30-22 at Twickenham.

“It is clearly an area we need to be right in two weeks’ time,” said the England head coach.

“I share the disappointment and frustration. We are all in this together. This is a group that is together, this is a group that is tight.”

England begin their campaign against Argentina on Saturday September 9, before also taking on Japan, Chile and Samoa in Pool D.

Borthwick aiming for defensive improvement

        Rugby World Cup: Jonny May replaces injured Anthony Watson in England's 33-player squad


Borthwick has insisted England will urgently address the defensive crisis amplified during their loss to Fiji.

Most concerning of all is a defence overseen by Kevin Sinfield that has now been breached 30 times in Borthwick’s nine Tests in charge, each outing seeing an average of 26 points leaked.

The England head coach is demanding an immediate improvement in the team’s work without the ball.

“I’m very clear that I was disappointed with the defence. We conceded too many tries and we missed too many tackles,” Borthwick said.

“Our focus is on ensuring we are much better than that against Argentina in two weeks’ time.

        Rugby World Cup: Jonny May replaces injured Anthony Watson in England's 33-player squad

After a first Test defeat to Fiji, England head coach Steve Borthwick praised the ‘Flying Fijians’ for their dominant performance

“The dropping off tackles has not been the case with what we’ve seen recently, but there were a lot against Fiji – more than 20 missed tackles. I think the total was 27.

“Now Fiji have exceptional power and speed, and that hurt us. But what we have to do is look at those tackles and what we could have done better.

“We didn’t want that result. We were clearly disappointed by the game and disappointed by aspects of that performance.

“Whilst there are areas of our performance which saw signs of growth, you can’t slip off that many tackles in a Test match.”

England’s official 2023 Rugby World Cup squad:

Forwards (19): Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, 11 caps), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 102 caps), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 45 caps), Theo Dan (Saracens, 3 cap), Ben Earl (Saracens, 18 caps), Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears, 52 caps), Jamie George (Saracens, 79 caps), Maro Itoje (Saracens, 70 caps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 100 caps), Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 21 caps), Joe Marler (Harlequins, 82 caps), George Martin (Leicester Tigers, 3 caps), David Ribbans (Toulon, 8 caps), Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks, 3 caps), Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 63 caps), Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 29 caps), Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 70 caps), Jack Walker (Harlequins, 4 caps), Jack Willis (Toulouse, 13 caps)

Backs (14): Henry Arundell (Racing 92, 8 caps), Danny Care (Harlequins, 90 caps), Elliot Daly (Saracens, 59 caps), Owen Farrell (Saracens, 107 caps), George Ford (Sale Sharks, 85 caps), Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby, 14 caps), Max Malins (Bristol Bears, 21 caps), Joe Marchant (Stade Francais, 19 caps), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 73 caps), Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, 6 caps), Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 24 caps), Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 26 caps), Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 53 caps), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 124 caps).