EXCLUSIVE: Owen Farrell will return to the England No 10 shirt for World Cup quarter-final against Fiji with Steve Borthwick set to leave out George Ford… and Marcus Smith could get the nod at full-back
- George Ford set to be left out as Steve Borthwick ditches alliance with Farrell
- Back-line reshuffle which could see Marcus Smith start at full-back on Sunday
Owen Farrell will return to the England No 10 shirt for the World Cup quarter-final against Fiji in Marseille on Sunday – in a back-line reshuffle which could see Marcus Smith start at full-back.
National coach Steve Borthwick is due to name his line-up on Friday for the last-eight showdown with the dangerous Pacific islanders and Mail Sport understands that captain Farrell will revert to the fly-half role.
Last weekend, he formed part of a familiar 10-12 alliance with George Ford, but that has been shelved after one outing.
At Stade Velodrome, Farrell will act as the primary playmaker, alongside a probable midfield partnership of Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marchant.
The personnel changes mean that Ford is set to lose his place in the XV, despite his outstanding feats in the opening tournament victory over Argentina at the same stadium last month.
Owen Farrell will return to the England No 10 shirt for the World Cup quarter-final against Fiji
George Ford is set to be left out as Steve Borthwick ditches the 10-12 alliance with Farrell
On that occasion, Ford’s three drop goals and supreme control drove 14-man England to a fine win over the Pumas, despite the inconvenience of an early red card for Tom Curry.
He went on to impress against Japan eight days later, but when Borthwick’s side laboured to beat Samoa 18-17 last Saturday, Ford went off with half-an-hour remaining and now he is destined for a bench role for the next, do-or-die fixture.
There is no scope for two playmakers among the replacements, but sources have indicated to Mail Sport that England have been training with Smith at full-back – indicating that he is likely to be deployed there from the start against Fiji, as he was in the demolition of Chile last month.
He could form a revised back-three unit with veterans Elliot Daly and Jonny May.
The decision to unleash Smith in a new role has been a surprising and striking feature of England’s campaign here and the warm-up phase which preceded it.
While the national team struggled during August, their ploy to integrate the Harlequins prodigy won admiration and. It would be a statement of daring intent for a quarter-final – against opponents with flair and physical presence, but not the same tactical kicking threat as other leading countries.
A back-line reshuffle which could see Marcus Smith start at full-back in Marseille on Sunday
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