Farrell, Smith and Arundell start for England against Chile
22 September, 2023, 9:19 am
By Mitch Phillips
MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) -England’s Owen Farrell will make his first appearance at the Rugby World Cup when he starts at flyhalf against Chile in Lille on Saturday with Marcus Smith at fullback and Henry Arundell on the wing as coach Steve Borthwick shuffles his resources.
Farrell missed the wins over Argentina and Japan as part of his four-game suspension for a dangerous tackle and comes in as captain to replace George Ford, who moves to the bench after two man of the match performances.
Smith, nominally a flyhalf, has come off the bench at fullback in recent games, bringing some much-needed vibrancy to England’s attack. He has never started a game at 15 for England or his club Harlequins.
In all there are 12 changes from the team that beat Japan 34-12 for what should be the easiest of England’s Pool D fixtures against the World Cup debutants.
Exciting 20-year-old Arundell starts on the right wing and Max Malins on the left, with Smith completing a new back three. Danny Care is scrumhalf, with Ollie Lawrence at inside centre and Elliot Daly moving from left wing to 13.
Loosehead prop Bevan Rodd and hooker Theo Dan both start their first games of the tournament, David Ribbans and George Martin form a new second row pairing, while Jack Willis, Lewis Ludlam and Billy Vunipola are the back row.
England are already virtually assured of a place in the quarter-finals after their two wins against the strongest sides in the group but victory on Saturday would confirm it before they sign off against Samoa.
They would then have a Marseille quarter-final against Wales, Fiji or Australia.
The return of Farrell was always likely for the Chile game, along with rests for Courtney Lawes and Jamie George, and assuming he comes through unscathed, Borthwick will again be faced with the perennial question about how to fit his captain into the team.
Some of England’s best performances under Jones came with Farrell at 12, outside Ford at flyhalf. Some pundits argue, however, that Ford operates best and really takes control without the all-powerful presence of his lifetime friend but dominant personality alongside him.
“We are all tremendously excited to see our captain on the grass on Saturday,” Borthwick said. “He has been an incredible leader for this team despite being unable to play in the first two games. He has been a fantastic influence, he’s been a role model on and off the training field.”
Of more pressing interest for Borthwick and England fans is to see how Smith performs with 15 on his back. Freddie Steward has been an exceptionally reliable defensive fullback for England over the last two years but is not the most explosive attacker.
Smith, unlikely to force his way in at flyhalf, is more vulnerable in defence but, as he showed in late recent cameos, can create gaps amid tiring defences.
“He has had three appearances off the bench at 15 and in each of those he has done really well,” said Borthwick. “I think you see an exciting, talented player who finds space.”
Farrell, who teamed up at 12 alongside Smith for several games under Jones, added: “Marcus is a fantastic player. Everybody knows what a talent he is. Hopefully we can link up, find space together and get each other involved in the game. There will be many different ways of doing that and hopefully being able to spot space and go for it quickly will help us all.”
Supporters will also hope that, having picked Arundell, England do not repeat their tactic against Japan of kicking away 84% of possession and instead get the ball to a player who has a rare combination of power, speed and mobility.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ken Ferris and Toby Davis)