Owen Farrell starts at fly-half with Marcus Smith at full-back as Steve Borthwick names bold selection for Fiji

Owen Farrell will start at fly-half in England's quarter-final with Fiji
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Owen Farrell will start at fly-half in England's Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Fiji, while Marcus Smith has been given the nod at full-back.

Head coach Steve Borthwick has backed his captain once again, and he will start in the No.10 jersey at the expense of George Ford who had impressed in the pool stages, especially in England's opener against Argentina.

The move from centre for Farrell means Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marchant reunite in England's midfield while operating behind them will be Harlequins playmaker Smith.

The 24-year-old shone in the No.15 shirt against Chile and Borthwick's call to go with Smith over Leicester Tigers' Freddie Steward, who has been dropped completely, is a bold move by the England boss for a World Cup quarter-final where scrutiny will be at its highest.

"It [Smith at full-back] was discussed some months ago through the Rugby World Cup preparation camps," Borthwick said. "Having that time with the players enables you to work on certain aspects and develop certain aspects, which has been brilliant. Marcus has really embraced the opportunity."

On selecting Farrell over Ford at fly-half, Borthwick replied: "George changes his role to the bench. He changes his role to the bench.

"We meet with all players around selection and the reasons behind it and the thought process behind and why we’re choosing to do what we do.

"George has been brilliant throughout this whole tournament so far. He’s been really excellent. His role is slightly different to finish the game. Again he has been brilliant in training week and when you have a look at the quality of players we have who are not starting this game, you could talk about George, Ben Youngs, Freddie Steward, Henry Arundell, there’s a lot of top quality players who aren’t starting. That shows the strength of this squad."

In the forwards, Ellis Genge starts at loosehead prop alongside Jamie George at hooker and Dan Cole at tighthead. Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum continue at lock with vice-captain Courtney Lawes on the blindside flank, Tom Curry on the openside and Ben Earl at No.8.

Alex Mitchell edges in front of Danny Care and Ben Youngs to partner Farrell in the half-backs while in the back three, Elliot Daly is favoured on the left wing, Jonny May moves to the right with Smith set to wear the 15 shirt.

Theo Dan, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, George Martin, Billy Vunipola, Danny Care and Ollie Lawrence join Ford on the bench. 

“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. This will be no different. The players cannot wait for this Sunday’s quarter-final against Fiji,” said Borthwick.  

 “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 back in September with a win against Argentina. I have said it before, but 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: Smith; May, Marchant, Tuilagi, Daly; Farrell (capt), Mitchell; Genge, George, Cole, Itoje, Chessum, Lawes, Curry, Earl.

Replacements: Dan, Marler, Sinckler, Martin, Vunipola, Care, Ford, Lawrence.

Fiji: Droasese; Habosi, Nayacalevu (capt), Tuisova, Radradra; Botitu, Lomani; Mawi, Ikanivere, Tagi, Nasilasila, Tuisue, Tagitagivalu, Botia, Mata.

Replacements: Matavesi, Ravai, Doge, Derenalagi, Miramira, Kuruvoli, Masi, Maqala.