England head coach Steve Borthwick hopes fly-half Marcus Smith could be fit to return to action in the Guinness Six Nations clash against Ireland at Twickenham.

Harlequins star Smith has sat out all three of England’s games so far with a calf problem suffered on a pre-tournament training camp.

Borthwick also feels Northampton scrum-half Alex Mitchell could be back in action before the end of the Six Nations, having missed the defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield with a knee issue.

“I am very hopeful that Marcus will be available for selection for this latter part of the tournament,” Borthwick said, quoted in several national newspapers.

“We have got positive news on Alex Mitchell’s injury, we are hopeful he will feature in the latter part of this tournament – whether that’s the next game, we are not sure, but we are hopeful he will be available as well.”

Following Saturday’s 30-21 Calcutta Cup loss in Edinburgh, the England squad are set to regroup in York for training.

Borthwick is expecting a response as the squad prepare to head back to Twickenham in the build-up to the showdown with Grand Slam contenders Ireland on March 9.

He said: “What’s going to be interesting to me and what I want when we debrief the players, is that after the first 20 minutes on Saturday – why did we go and play in a manner that was not the way we had played the first 20?

“What changed? What in the thought processes altered to try and do something different?

“I will only be able to understand that fully once we have talked to the players and listened to them about how it was on the grass.”

England have revealed Marcus Smith could miss the entire Guinness Six Nations because of the calf injury that has ruled him of at least Saturday’s opener against Italy and Wales a week later.

A clearer picture over Smith’s fitness will emerge next week, but in the meantime veteran George Ford has been installed at fly-half for the Stadio Olimpico showdown with Fin Smith deputising from the bench.

Fin Smith is one of five uncapped players in the matchday 23 and should all of them get time on the field, it will be the highest number of new caps awarded in a single match since Stuart Lancaster’s first game in charge in 2012.

Centre Fraser Dingwall and flanker Ethan Roots are included in the starting XV while Smith, back row Chandler Cunningham-South and wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso feature on the bench.

In a boost to England, Alex Mitchell has recovered from a leg wound to take his place at scrum-half, but the player who was expected to partner him at half-back faces an anxious wait to see if he will be involved at all over the coming weeks.

“Marcus will go back to England today (Thursday) and have further investigations later this week. He won’t be available next week,” Borthwick said.

“We’re not sure exactly when. Hopefully he will play in the latter part of the Six Nations, but it will be a number of weeks. We’ll know more next week.”

Mitchell’s immediate prospects of building on becoming first-choice scrum-half at the World Cup were thrown into doubt when he felt unwell as a result of the infected wound he took into England’s camp in Girona, preventing him from training fully until Thursday morning.

“Our medical team took great care of him over the weekend and at start of the week to get the infection under control and he looks brilliant,” Borthwick said.

“He played a lot of minutes for us during the World Cup and has played a lot of time for his club, so he is match sharp and ready to go. He looked fantastic in training today (Thursday).”

Experienced faces such as Ford, Joe Marler and Maro Itoje are present throughout the 23, but the rare inclusion of five debutants indicated the post-2023 World Cup rebuilding phase is under way, even if some of the picks were forced on Borthwick.

Dingwall starts at inside centre having been included in nine previous England squads without winning a cap, giving him the opportunity to prove he is the solution to the team’s problem position.

Although lacking the raw power of the injured Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence, the 24-year-old is a classy runner who is comfortable at 12 or 13.

Roots, a former jiu-jitsu champion who qualifies for England through his father, represented the Maori All Blacks but having left New Zealand in 2021 he has proved a hit at the Ospreys and now Exeter.

If Finn Smith, Cunningham-South and Immanuel Feyi-Waboso join them on the field, it will be an injection of fresh faces not seen for 12 years.

“Each one of those guys has earned his place in the matchday 23. Each one of them is an exciting young player,” Borthwick said.

“I didn’t think I’d be naming a 23 with five debutants. I’ve asked when the last time was England named a 23 with five new caps in it!”

England fly-half Marcus Smith is awaiting scan results on a leg injury sustained in training just five days before the Guinness Six Nations’ opener against Italy.

Steve Borthwick’s squad are on a training camp in Girona and the England head coach is scheduled to announce his starting line-up on Thursday.

England’s Six Nations’ hopes would be given a huge blow if Smith is ruled out as fellow fly-half Owen Farrell is ineligible for selection following his move from Saracens to French side Racing 92 last week.

Farrell had already made himself unavailable for this season’s Six Nations in order to focus on his mental well-being and Smith was a leading contender to fill his boots.

Smith left England’s training camp on crutches and headed for a scan after his session had been cut short.

England attack coach Richard Wigglesworth told several national media outlets: “Hopefully it’s very precautionary, but if he is not (available) it would definitely be a blow for us.

“It wasn’t a big incident. He was just jogging, but he pulled up and happened to be right next to a physio by the sideline, so they walked off after that. All the usual stuff (medical assessments) will happen.”

England are to provide greater support for the welfare of their players in response to captain Owen Farrell taking a break from Test rugby to prioritise his mental health.

Farrell made the shock decision just weeks after leading England to a third-placed finish at the World Cup in France – during which he was regularly booed by fans – and he will miss at least the Six Nations.

The fly-half’s international team-mate Kyle Sinckler stated that Farrell taking a step back was “only the beginning” because of the workload and pressure faced by players at the highest level.

As well as being booed at games, Farrell has been the victim of online abuse and there is an acceptance at the Rugby Football Union that playing for England brings with it a growing level of scrutiny.

“We just want to support Owen and all the time we are looking to improve the wrap-around care for players. That is the most important thing,” RFU executive director of performance rugby Conor O’Shea said.

“It is getting more and more difficult and febrile to operate in some of these environments so we need to look really carefully at this to make sure we are the best at it.”

Head coach Steve Borthwick is to be given greater control over his most important players with the introduction of 25 ‘hybrid contracts’.

But while he will be able to set an England star’s conditioning program and influence medical decisions when they are with their clubs, he will not have the scope to dictate what position they play.

Marcus Smith was primarily used as a full-back during the World Cup but Borthwick would be unable to insist he wears the 15 jersey for Harlequins were he to be given one of the new contracts.

“We are very careful when it comes to selection and where a player will play at his club,” O’Shea said.

“The deal is that players are paid to win at the weekend and so clubs will make that final call where the player plays.”

O’Shea has been involved in shaping plans for a new-look second tier of English club rugby that will sit below the Gallagher Premiership.

The league – tentatively named ‘Premiership 2’ – would replace the existing Championship with teams currently in that competition invited to indicate whether they wanted to be involved.

If there was insufficient interest then all funding to the Championship in its current form would be pulled by the RFU, who believes the competition needs a significant overhaul.

“What are you investing in? You’d rather take that money and invest it in other things,” RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said.

“I know it’s a controversial topic, but where are you going to get that return on investment?

“We’ve shown that if you pour money into the existing structure of the Championship, it just doesn’t deliver. That’s not being disrespectful, it just doesn’t.”

Eddie Jones insists Marcus Smith is “not a full-back” and England must utilise the Harlequins talent at outside-half to get the best out of him.

England deployed Smith at full-back in during the World Cup in France, including their quarter-final victory over Fiji.

Smith was injured in the first half of that game and subsequently missed the semi-final defeat to South Africa, but England boss Steve Borthwick could opt to continue playing him there with skipper Owen Farrell and George Ford strong options at 10.

Former England boss Jones, who this week resigned from his post as Australia head coach, said: “Look at Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand outside-half), he is 29, experienced and he plays a great World Cup.

“Marcus is 24, he has got a lot of learning to do but unless he plays he never gets that learning.

“At some stage you have got to take a bit of pain if you play a guy like him. He is a good player, a very good player but he is not a full-back.

“That is up to Steve, but if you want to develop him as a player of course he has got to play 10.”

Jones led England to three Six Nations titles, including the Grand Slam in 2016, and to the final of the 2019 World Cup during his reign between 2015 and 2022.

The 63-year-old was appointed Australia head coach for a second time in January 2023, just one month after the Rugby Football Union sacked him for a poor run of results in which England had won just five of 12 Tests in 2022.

Asked at a Barbarians pre-match press conference, in which he will take joint charge of the invitation team against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, how far he could have taken England at the World Cup, Jones replied: “That’s not a question. That’s a dream.”

On England’s campaign, he added: “They were really competitive. They fought hard and played tough.

“Steve did a really good job, he went back to English rugby which suited the tournament.”

Jones insisted his role as Australia head coach would have been compromised had he stayed in the job.

He will officially depart the position on November 25 after Australia failed to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time in their history.

“Post the World Cup there was always going to be a decision to be made whether we were going to change Australian rugby or not,” said Jones, who was reportedly interviewed by the Japanese Rugby Football Union before the tournament over becoming their head coach.

“I went in with a plan and had a commitment from Rugby Australia what that looked like.

“When the unity of where we were going wasn’t the same, not because of the lack of desire from Rugby Australia but there’s other forces at play, then the only thing I could do was resign.

“Obviously the results are disappointing, but I went in there with a plan to change Australian rugby, which not only involves the team but the system to put it together.

“When you’ve had 20 years of unsuccessful rugby that’s because of the system. I went in with a plan of how to change the system and that’s unable to be changed. I felt my job would be compromised for the next four years, which I wasn’t prepared to do.”

Jones insists his future in coaching is “up to others”, but he has ruled out the idea of coaching the British and Irish Lions on their 2025 tour of Australia.

He said: “I have moved from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere.

“I had my go with England, I loved coaching England, and I wouldn’t want to be involved in the Lions. Not at all.”

Tom Curry starts England’s World Cup bronze final against Argentina despite receiving online abuse in response to the allegation that he was the victim of a racist slur against South Africa.

Curry claimed that hooker Bongi Mbonambi called him a “white c***” in Saturday’s 16-15 semi-final defeat at the Stade de France, prompting World Rugby to launch an investigation that is ongoing.

The Sale flanker continues in the back row despite being in the eye of the storm, however, and will win his 50th cap in a rematch of the pool victory over the Pumas.

Owen Farrell leads a team showing eight changes in personnel and two positional switches, one of them Curry’s move to blindside flanker to accommodate Sam Underhill’s first appearance of the World Cup in the number seven jersey.

Marcus Smith is restored at full-back after passing the HIA that forced him to sit out the South Africa showdown and the knock-on effect is that Freddie Steward moves to the right wing.

Marcus Smith was ruled out of England’s World Cup semi-final against South Africa because of concussion, head coach Steve Borthwick has confirmed.

Smith has been replaced at full-back by Freddie Steward after he took a series of blows in the last-eight victory over Fiji that resulted in him finishing the match with a bandaged head and fat lip.

A tackle by wing Vinaya Habosi forced him to undergo an HIA which he passed, but he failed the subsequent return to play protocols and has been stood down for Saturday’s Stade de France showdown.

England have made two further changes to their starting XV with prop Joe Marler and lock George Martin coming in for Ellis Genge and Ollie Chessum respectively.

“Marcus was unavailable for selection due to the return to play protocols. He was ruled out earlier in the week,” Borthwick said.

“He took a knock in the game and passed the first parts of the HIA process, which meant he finished the game.

“Then there are subsequent parts of the HIA process and one part of that he did not pass. And then it was confirmed to me he was unavailable for selection.

“He is perfectly fine in terms of symptoms – he doesn’t feel anything. We’d expect him to be available for selection after this weekend. It’s right to reiterate that player welfare is critical and vital to us.”

Whether a fit Smith would have been retained at 15 is unknown, but it appears unlikely given the precision and variety of South Africa’s kicking game.

Smith offers a cutting edge in attack but Steward is one of the game’s most accomplished full-backs – ultra-dependable under the high ball, strong in defence and a key component of England’s kick-chase.

Captain Owen Farrell is aware of the aerial onslaught coming in Paris but is backing Steward to thrive.

“The thing about Freddie is everybody knows how good he is in the air, everybody knows what a fantastic player he is in general,” Farrell said.

“But it’s the want to do it, the want to be in those battles, the want to go and get the ball back for his team, the want to defuse what’s coming our way. He is one of the best in the world at it.

“The kicking game has been a massive weapon for South Africa for years and years now. They’ve progressed it and they go on with a lot of contestable kicks.

“We’ve done our work and we’ve come up with our plan to negate what we can from them but also looking to be able to attack ourselves.”

The adjustments to the tight five see Marler’s scrummaging prowess get him the nod ahead of Genge, with Borthwick noting that South Africa have the “best scrum in the world”.

Martin will bring physicality to the second row while Genge and Chessum will take their place in England’s answer to the ‘Bomb Squad’ – the heavyweight forward reinforcements that the Springboks summon from the bench.

South Africa this week rejected the suggestion that in their quarter-final victory over France they used HIAs to rotate forwards Mbongeni Mbonambi, Pieter-Steph Du Toit and Duane Vermeulen, enabling them to take a rest.

Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has a reputation for taking an innovative approach to the laws and testing their boundaries, but Borthwick has faith in the officials to spot any mischief.

“We have got a match officials team that’s world class, led by Ben O’Keeffe,” Borthwick said.

“I am sure everybody around the pitch as well will have every bit of process in place. There is no issues there from our perspective.”

Marcus Smith is now viewed as a “world class” option at full-back by England after Kevin Sinfield was blown away by his defensive heroics against Fiji.

England are hopeful that Smith will be passed fit for Saturday’s World Cup semi-final against South Africa after he was placed on modified training alongside Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Tom Curry, Courtney Lawes and Dan Cole.

The converted fly-half ended the last-eight victory over Fiji on Sunday with a fat upper lip and bandage around his head after he was the victim of a dangerous tackle by wing Vinaya Habosi, forcing him to depart for an HIA which he passed.

Once again he is competing with Freddie Steward for the number 15 jersey and, after two starts in the position, Sinfield sees a player who has the bravery to match his attacking brilliance.

“We’d all agree he’s a world class 10, but last weekend I felt he was a world class 15 as well,” England’s defence coach said

“You’ve got to remember this guys has played around 100, 120 minutes as a full-back in Test rugby so far.

“What he’s done on the training field for us has been outstanding. You’re blown away by what he does now that he’s being given more time and space.

“If there was any doubt how brave and courageous he is then you saw it with your own eyes. The bloke got his face smashed in and threw his body into tackles.

“The guys are in full admiration for him – he’s just got his face smashed all over the place yet he wants the ball. He’s just a brave guy.

“And not just because he’s physically tough and brave, because to be put on a world stage in a quarter-final and deliver what he delivered was an absolute credit to him. What a great kid.”

Steward was dropped from the 23 against Fiji altogether and now England face the choice of reverting to his high ball and positional expertise or rolling the dice by retaining Smith in the hope he will provide a cutting edge.

South Africa possess a far smarter kicking game that could expose Smith’s inexperience at full-back, pointing to Steward’s likely return when Steve Borthwick names his team on Thursday.

“I’ve worked with Fred for some time now and thankfully I’ve not had to have many of these conversations where I’m trying to pick him up,” Sinfield said.

“Clearly he was disappointed, as anyone would be, missing out on a quarter-final, but he’s responded as we’d expect him to.

“He is a great lad, you know what he’s about, he works incredibly hard at his game, he cares and he is unbelievable full-back too.

“We are in a pretty fortunate position where we have three world class 10s and two world class full-backs.

“Our team has changed every game throughout the World Cup and Steve selects the team he thinks it will give us the best chance of winning that game.

“Just because Fred wasn’t selected last week doesn’t mean he does anything wrong, he has actually done a lot of great things and a lot of things right, but Steve and the coaching team thought it was the right thing to go with Marcus against Fiji.”

Marcus Smith has been backed to deliver on the biggest night of his career after England gambled by picking the Harlequins magician at full-back for Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final against Fiji.

Smith will make only his second professional start in the number 15 jersey and, while he has also banked a number of influential cameos as a replacement, he remains a converted fly-half who is unproven in the position at the highest level.

England believe he will continue to thrive in his new role, providing a cutting edge in attack and a second ball-playing option, and have sacrificed the ultra dependable Freddie Steward to accommodate him.

Another seismic selection sees Owen Farrell replace George Ford at fly-half even though the Sale ringmaster has excelled at the World Cup, delivering man-of-the-match displays against Argentina and Japan.

All eyes will be on Smith, however, in the hope that he can reproduce the fireworks seen in the group match against Chile when he ran in two tries.

Harlequins team-mate Joe Marler has known the 24-year-old since he arrived at Twickenham Stoop as a teenager and quickly realised he was a special talent.

“Marcus is a big-match player. I’m really happy for him to get his opportunity to start again in a World Cup. He’ll thrive,” Marler said.

“He’s shown it off the bench in the moments we’ve needed him and I hope he can do that from the start.

“At the club he was confident early on, even to the point where I turn around and say ‘I’m going to have to say something to this guy, he’s gobbing off at me’. I’ve been at the club 10 years and he’s gobbing off at me.

“I was like ‘he’s a jumped up, entitled, little, private school kid’. And then when you realise how good he is at rugby and why he’s doing what he’s doing, I was like ‘I’m going to listen to him because he’s going to get us into positions where we can win more rugby games because he knows what he’s talking about’.

“He’s done it consistently at club level and now it’s about now doing it consistently at international level. What better place to do that than starting in the quarter-final?”

Farrell will dovetail with Smith in attack with the pair each operating at first and second receiver at different times. England’s captain has noted his team-mate’s appetite to take on the opposition.

“I’m impressed with how much Marcus wants to get after it – how much he wants the ball, how much he wants to make a difference,” Farrell said.

“From what I’ve seen so far the bigger the occasion, the more he wants to do that. It’s not like Marcus hasn’t played in big games – he’s won the Premierships.

“He wants to have a big impact on the game and so far he’s been doing that. I see it being no different this weekend.”

England field eight survivors from the starting XV that took on South Africa in the World Cup final four years ago and it could be a final appearance for several members of Borthwick’s squad – providing additional motivation against Fiji.

“There are definitely a number of us that won’t play for England again after this tournament,” Marler said.

“We have been together a number of years, we have built friendships and bonds. We want to give this our all and finish on a high.

“You never know when your last game is. You’ve got to make the most of what you can.”

England have rolled the dice for Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final against Fiji by naming Marcus Smith at full-back in place of the jettisoned Freddie Steward.

Steward has been an automatic pick since making his Test debut in July 2021 but the high-ball master is omitted from the 23 entirely as Steve Borthwick instead opts for the greater attacking threat supplied by Smith.

It will be the converted fly-half’s second start in the number 15 jersey having starred against Chile during the group phase, but Fiji are a significant step up in opposition even if they lack a top-class kicking game.

Among Smith’s duties will be acting as a second playmaker to captain Owen Farrell, who has been picked at fly-half ahead of George Ford for England’s biggest game since the 2019 World Cup final.

It is another seismic selection call from Borthwick given that Ford was man of the match in the Pool D victories over Argentina and Japan and is the form player in the position.

The Sale ringmaster is confined to a supporting role from the bench as Borthwick delivers a show of faith in his skipper, who will be making his third appearance at the World Cup.

Marcus Smith has developed into England’s fastest player over short distances, according to sprint student Jonny May.

Making his first start at full-back, Smith excelled in Sunday’s 71-0 rout of Chile that has placed unbeaten England on the brink of qualifying for the World Cup quarter-finals.

The 24-year-old Harlequins magician, a converted fly-half, conjured a dazzling solo touch down as part of an individual two-try haul and also offered an extra dimension in attack.

 

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While Smith’s creativity as a ball player is well established, the lightening-quick May has been caught by surprise by just how rapid he has become.

 

“Marcus’ acceleration is as good as anyone’s,” said May, who sharpened his own running technique with a spell at Michael Johnson Performance in Texas.

“Off the mark he’s frightening. Top speed he’s getting faster as well.

“His top speed is probably not like a winger yet, but he doesn’t need that.

“He is deadly in the outside channels. He’s as good as anyone out there.

“He has his famous goose-step and change of direction, and then acceleration which really is as fast as anybody’s here.

“He’s probably the fastest off the mark.”

Racing 92 wing Henry Arundell underlined his pace when plundering five tries against Chile, but even the squad’s most rapid player can not match Smith for sheer speed from a standing start.

When asked if Smith is faster than Arundell, May replied: “Yes, I think he is – off that 10-metre burst.

“For acceleration you want low heel-recovery – and that’s how Marcus runs. For top speed you want your legs to come up high, but for acceleration you want it to be low.

“He really does drive his knees and keeps his feet close to the ground.

“He just whizzes off the mark. He’s an acceleration guy and he’s quick at it.”

May first encountered Smith when the Brighton resident, who was making waves as an age-grade player, was invited by former head coach Eddie Jones to join an England camp on the south coast in 2017.

“I’ve actually been saying to Marcus, ‘mate you are physically blossoming’. It’s sort of sprung up on me,” the veteran Gloucester wing said.

“You forget he has been coming in with us since he was 16. We’d put a GPS on him and he’d be running around Brighton College with us.

“I don’t want to sound patronising but because he’s always been that little guy running round with us, it’s only now I’m realising he’s looking quick and that all of a sudden his legs are big.

“You start to come into yourself at 24. Rugby is bit of a late-development sport. He’s definitely coming into himself physically.

“He has put on a bit and his legs are looking good. People are whacking him and he’s spinning off them.

“He’s looking quick, he’s obviously fit and it’s crept up on me a bit. Suddenly I’m thinking ‘bloody hell, mate, good stuff’.”

Marcus Smith finished England’s World Cup rout of Chile in the same back line as Owen Farrell and George Ford – six years after rushing his A-level maths exam to train with his heroes.

England experimented by deploying all three of their fly-halves for the final half-hour of Saturday’s 71-0 victory in Lille that places them on the brink of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Smith was operating in his new role of full-back while Ford stepped off the bench to form a creative axis with Farrell designed to run spirited but outclassed Chile off their feet.

For Smith it was a special moment after his first encounter with the duo came in May 2017 when he took part in England’s camp in his native Brighton, where he was studying as an 18-year-old.

“Those two have been really influential ever since I was invited to train with England when I was very young,” he said.

“I was very lucky that England went to Brighton College – I went to Brighton College – and I had to beg my teachers because when I heard that opportunity was available because I was desperate to take it.

“I rushed my maths exams so I could get on the field. I had my rugby socks on and I was ready to go. I got a B, I think. I’ll take that – maybe I rushed it too much!

“To be able to learn from the best two fly-halves in England was special for me. They’ve been really helpful to me.

“It was class to play with Owen and George against Chile. To have two guys who are unbelievably skilful inside, able to see space, and for me to have slightly more space in the outside channels was a pleasure.

“They managed to find me a few times and I really enjoyed running in the wider channels. To all be out there at the same time was an honour. It was a day I’ll never forget.”

Smith’s conversion from fly-half to full-back now spans four cameos as a replacement and 80 minutes against Chile and while a success to date, tougher assignments await in the form of Samoa and the quarter-finals.

The Harlequins magician insists he is happy to contribute in whatever role gets him on the field.

“It was class. I really enjoyed it. Playing 10, 15, where – I thoroughly enjoy being on the field,” Smith said.

“It doesn’t last forever so whenever I get the opportunity I’m going to try to make the most of it.”

Sharing star billing with Smith at Stade Pierre-Mauroy was Henry Arundell, the 20-year-old wing who equalled the England record of five tries scored in one match.

Arundell will join Racing 92 after the World Cup following the financial collapse of London Irish but despite playing for an overseas club he is expected to be available for selection in the Six Nations under the exceptional circumstances rule.

“Henry is a great finisher and he certainly makes things happen. That pace he has… I see the hard work he does on the training field – he’s a man who is determined to get better,” head coach Steve Borthwick said.

England now have their bye week and will not resume training until Thursday with players able to leave their camp in Le Touquet and meet family, although none will be returning home.

While allowed to depart France under tournament regulations, players must be available for drug testing and media commitments, thereby restricting their movement.

Some of Borthwick’s management team will return home briefly over the coming days, however.

“The coaches have the next few days off because the whole management team has worked alongside all the players very, very hard to this point. It’s important now they all have a few days break,” Borthwick said.

England are ready to step up their experiment of playing Marcus Smith at full-back in the belief he is able to perform the fundamentals of the position.

Smith will make his first start in the number 15 jersey in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup clash with Chile having made cameo appearances off the bench in the previous four Tests, providing a lively counter-attacking threat and extra playmaking option.

On each occasion his arrival acted as a catalyst for England with the ball in hand, particularly in Sunday’s 34-12 victory over Japan.

While unlikely to oust first-choice full-back Freddie Steward, Smith has the opportunity to persuade head coach Steve Borthwick that he is a viable alternative.

Borthwick appears to have found an important role for one of the most exciting talents in English rugby and is confident that his dependability under the high ball and defence match his creative skills.

“Everyone knows Marcus’ ability with ball in hand. Everyone knows he’s got a great tactical kicking game,” Borthwick said.

“Having that ball in space at 15 gives him even more time to find opportunities and find more space.

“What we are seeing from him is that his ability under the high ball is very good and he’s a really tough, brave defender.

“You don’t want your full-back to make many tackles but when they do they are usually pretty important ones. Marcus has shown himself to bring a real intensity to his defence as well.

“Having Marcus as an option there is a great strength for us. Given the way he has come on to the field and played in the position, he deserves this opportunity.”

Owen Farrell returns from suspension to lead the team at fly-half as one of 12 changes in personnel for the clash against the lowest ranked side in Pool D at Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

Borthwick has taken the opportunity to rest the bulk of his frontline stars such as stand-in skipper Courtney Lawes, full-back Freddie Steward, hooker Jamie George and centre Manu Tuilagi.

Ford is not among those rotated out, however, with England’s first-choice fly-half poised to step off the bench in the second half and be paired with Farrell in a playmaking axis for the first time since 2021.

“George Ford has been in superb form,” said Borthwick, who confirmed that Farrell remains the squad’s captain despite Lawes performing well in the role against Argentina and Japan.

“Will we see George Ford and Owen Farrell at 10 and 12? I think that could happen at some point in the game,” Borthwick said.

“They’ve been a great partnership in the past. They have been working together in training.

“They have known each other for a very, very long time and you have seen the way they can work together. There’s a great synergy between them.”

Henry Arundell makes his World Cup debut on the right wing with clear instructions from Borthwick to go hunting for the ball.

“Henry has got a special talent and ability to beat people. Henry is a very instinctive player so I talk about backing his instincts,” Borthwick said.

“If he makes a decision to go, then go. Beat people. It’s what he does so very, very well. He has added other dimensions to his game.

“His defence has really, really stepped forward, his high ball has really improved. He has been working exceptionally hard on it.

“His point of difference is his ability to beat people, so I encourage him to go and beat people.”

Marcus Smith will provide a cutting edge from full-back as England look to give their attack lift off in their World Cup clash with Chile in Lille.

Harlequins fly-half Smith starts in the number 15 jersey for the first time having appeared as a replacement in the previous four Tests, providing a lively counter-attacking threat and extra playmaking option.

On each occasion his arrival acted as a catalyst for England with the ball in hand, particularly in Sunday’s 34-12 victory over Japan.

Owen Farrell returns from suspension to lead the team at fly-half as Steve Borthwick makes 12 changes in personnel for the clash against the lowest-ranked side in Pool D at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Saturday.

Borthwick has taken the opportunity to rest the bulk of his frontline stars such as stand-in skipper Courtney Lawes, full-back Freddie Steward, hooker Jamie George and centre Manu Tuilagi.

However, George Ford has not been given the weekend off after being picked on the bench, raising the prospect that three players whose primary position is 10 could be on the field at the same time.

At some point in the second half, Farrell and Ford are expected to reprise the playmaking axis that served England well under Eddie Jones until Ford fell out of favour.

Chile are ranked 22nd in the world and offer the scope to experiment as well as rest key personnel with tougher assignments against Samoa on October 7 and a potential quarter-final to come.

Henry Arundell and Max Malins form the wings, while Ollie Lawrence and Elliot Daly are paired together in a classic centre pairing that mixes ball-carrying clout and dynamic running skills.

Only prop Kyle Sinckler and flanker Lewis Ludlam remain from the pack that overran Japan, with hooker Theo Dan and prop Bevan Rodd present in a raw-looking front row.

“One of the many great things about the World Cup is that the tournament provides an excellent opportunity to play against teams that we rarely have a chance to see. It is for that reason that we are particularly looking forward to testing ourselves against Chile on Saturday,” Borthwick said.

“Having watched our next opponent closely, we know that we will have to prepare and play well against a committed Chile team.

“As we head to the next round, it is only right that I once again pay tribute to our excellent supporters who I know will be right behind us in Lille this weekend.”

While there are a host of new faces present, all eyes will be focused on how Smith performs when given more than a cameo role at full-back.

Although unlikely to start in the pressure-cooker matches due to his inexperience in the position, Borthwick appears to have found an important role for one of the most exciting talents in English rugby.

It is also a crucial match for Farrell, who needs minutes on the field after making his most recent appearance against Wales on August 12 when he was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Taine Basham.

England are set to to accelerate their experiment of deploying Marcus Smith’s running skills at full-back in Saturday’s World Cup clash with Chile.

Smith has filled the position as a second-half replacement in the last four Tests, adding an extra playmaker to the backline and providing a dynamic counter-attacking threat.

The Harlequins fly-half is now poised to make his first start at 15 as Steve Borthwick takes the opportunity to rotate his squad against the weakest opposition of England’s group campaign.

Owen Farrell has completed his four-match suspension for a dangerous tackle and is ready to make his first appearance since the illegal challenge against Wales on August 12.

Farrell is set to be reinstated at fly-half and resume as captain when Borthwick names his team for the Lille showdown on Thursday evening.

Additional changes will see hooker Theo Dan start and lock David Ribbans and flanker Jack Willis make their World Cup debuts as part of a revamped 23 that will enable many of England’s frontline stars to be rested.

Willis has been competing for a spot in the ultra-competitive back row, but so far Courtney Lawes, Ben Earl, Tom Curry, Lewis Ludlam and Bill Vunipola have commanded all the game-time.

Those overlooked for selection for the victories against Argentina and Japan have been forced to complete gruelling extra training sessions, but Willis insists there has been no sense of grievance among those waiting for their opportunity.

“I don’t feel we’re a group that would let that happen, I honestly don’t. There’s no resentment towards the players that are playing,” Willis said.

“We want the team to be successful. We want to get as far as we can in this tournament, no matter whether you’re starting, on the bench, travelling reserve or not involved; you want the best for the team.”

Reflecting on his own position, the 26-year-old Toulouse flanker said: “We all know how competitive the back row is.

“I don’t think anyone of us would feel aggrieved because of the quality in the back row. I think we all bring different strengths and qualities. Depending on the opposition that can change.

“I’ve got to keep my head down and keep working hard, making sure I’m in the best shape physically I can be so that when that opportunity comes I can come out the blocks.”

Making his first World Cup appearance will be the latest episode of a rollercoaster 12 months for Willis, who was forced to leave Wasps when they entered administration and then join Toulouse.

He now has a Top 14 title winners medal to his name and is ready to realise a boyhood dream.

“If and when that chance comes you end up reflecting a little bit, thinking back to the little lad who was watching World Cup matches with his dad and his brother in the front lounge and trying to realise how special it is to be pulling on that shirt and running out at a World Cup.

“Steve Borthwick did say when the squad was named that it was in the low hundreds of how many people had pulled on a World Cup jersey for England.

“Sometimes you don’t think about that, how few people get the opportunity to do it and how special it is. Just be grateful of every moment and try and maximise it.”

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