End of an era? England squad set for major change after Rugby World Cup exit

France was their ‘Last Dance’

Joe Marler, 33 – Used mainly off the bench this tournament but started in the semi-final and scrummaged excellently against the Springboks. Will no doubt be a big voice to replace in the dressing room when he eventually departs.

Dan Cole, 36 – Brought back into the fold for this tournament after an excellent season at Leicester with Borthwick. Rolled back the years in France but hard to imagine a similar recall for Australia in 2027.

Danny Care, 36 – Impacted games often off the bench and finally got the World Cup experience that had so often evaded him. Superb late score and try-saving tackle against Samoa to save England’s blushes in the pool stage.

Care scored his first World Cup try against Samoa

Ben Youngs, 34 – England’s most-capped player but made just two subs appearances in the tournament. A decorated player but Alex Mitchell’s composed displays at scrum-half have pushed him above the the Leicester veteran in the pecking order.

Jonny May, 33 – Blistering pace in his prime and a solid tournament coming in late to replace Anthony Watson but the upcoming Ollie Hassell-Collins and Henry Arundell will be just two after his place in the coming years.

May came in as a late replacement but performed well

Mainstays ahead of 2027

Owen Farrell, 31 – Silenced many doubters with two talismanic performances against Fiji and South Africa. Supreme physical condition and will be eyeing up a Johnny Sexton-esque swansong at the next World Cup.

Maro Itoje, 28 – Still only 28 and will become one of the most experienced players in the squad alongside Farrell and George Ford in the coming years. Exciting partnerships are to be built with both Ollie Chessum and George Martin in the engine room and a potential captaincy should Farrell’s not make it to 2027.

Itoje will be eyeing up his third World Cup in 2027

Tom Curry, 25 – Closing in on a half-century of caps aged just 25. Bounced back superbly from his third-minute red card against Argentina and will be a key cog in Bortwhick’s first full cycle.

Ben Earl, 25 – A coming-of-age tournament for the breakout Saracens back-rower. All-action displays from the back of the scrum mean he will no doubt be one of the first names on the teamsheet moving forward.

Earl was England’s beakthrough star

Freddie Steward, 22 – Dropped for the quarter-final against Fiji but delivered a commanding display under the high ball against South Africa in the semi-final. Defensively superb and still only 22, the Leicester full-back should go from strength to strength over the next four years.

Rising stars

Theo Dan, 22 – Limited for game time this tournament due to Jamie George’s supreme conditioning. Still work to be done on his set-piece game but will be hoping to usurp his Saracens team-mate in the coming years.

Bevan Rodd, 23 – Another young front-rower who saw little game time in England’s key games. Took his try well against Chile but has big boots to fill with the likely departures of Cole and Marler.

Rodd scored against Chile

George Martin, 22 – Made his maiden World Cup start against South Africa with a powerful display in the second row. Looks like a ready-made replacement for the already departing Lawes.

Ollie Lawrence, 23 – A solid, if slightly unremarkable, tournament for the Bath centre. Is still surely seen as the long-term successor to Manu Tuilagi in the midfield and will only get better in the coming years.

Henry Arundell, 20 – A World Cup debut to remember for the pacey winger with five tries against Chile in the pool stage. Perhaps still work to be done on other facets of his game to fully cope with the demands of Test rugby but an exciting talent to nurture in time for 2027.

Arundell scored five tries against Chile in the pool stage

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