Rugby World Cup: George tells England to relish Fiji clash
England boss Steve Borthwick has named his team to face Fiji in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup, standing by his captain Owen Farrell and switching him to fly-half while George Ford has been dropped to the bench despite his impressive displays in France. Many will feel that Borthwick has taken a huge gamble for the knockout contest, with Marcus Smith also getting the nod over Freddie Steward.
Steward has started 29 of the previous 30 England Tests but with Ford out of the team, Borthwick clearly wants another playmaker on the pitch to face Fiji and Smith has been handed another opportunity to impress from the start at full-back.
Smith has started just one Test at full-back previously though and there will be questions over whether Borthwick has made the correct decision, handing that role to a player inexperienced for the battle against a Fiji side that defeated England at Twickenham in August.
Those are the only two changes, as Billy Vunipola and Danny Care remain on the bench despite the latter’s matchwinning try and then tackle to save a disjointed final pool stage win over Samoa. Alex Mitchell, meanwhile, keeps the scrum-half spot.
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There is no place in the squad for winger Henry Arundell, who was reportedly involved in a training ground bust-up with skipper Farrell, despite scoring five tries in his tournament debut against Chile.
“The knockout stages of any Rugby World Cup are always full of excitement and keen anticipation for our supporters both at home and here in France,” Borthwick said as he announced his squad.
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“This will be no different. The players cannot wait. Everyone knows just what an unpredictably dangerous opposition Fiji can be. However, we have shown in the group stages how we can win games, and we will be calling on that experience and determination to ensure we carry on our journey.
“We are very much looking forward to returning to the special atmosphere of the Stade de Marseille, where we started our campaign. It is right that I say it again, our supporters contributed to a very special night on that occasion, and I have no doubt it will be another memorable evening this Sunday.”
England XV to face Fiji: 1. Ellis Genge, 2. Jamie George, 3. Dan Cole, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Ollie Chessum, 6. Courtney Lawes, 7. Tom Curry, 8. Ben Earl, 9. Alex Mitchell, 10. Owen Farrell, 11. Elliot Daly, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 13. Joe Marchant, 14. Jonny May, 15. Marcus Smith.
Replacements: 16. Theo Dan, 13. Joe Marler, 18. Kyle Sinckler, 19. George Martin, 20. Billy Vunipola, 21. Danny Care, 22. George Ford, 23. Ollie Lawrence.
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