Marcus Smith set to return to the England bench as head coach Steve Borthwick looks to combine George Ford and Owen Farrell to face Samoa on Saturday
- Marcus Smith is set to return to the bench for England’s World Cup quarter-final
- George Ford and Owen Farrell are expected to lineup together against Samoa
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England are set to combine George Ford and Owen Farrell against Samoa on Saturday as they fine-tune their preparations for the World Cup quarter-final — with maverick Marcus Smith set to return to the bench.
Due to injuries and suspensions, Ford and Farrell are yet to start together under Steve Borthwick but the experienced pair are expected to combine for the final pool match in Lille.
Ford is set to return to the No 10 jersey, with Farrell and Manu Tuilagi starting together in the centres. England name their team on Thursday and Tuilagi is expected to be handed his first-ever start against his ancestral homeland after more than a decade in the national team.
Freddie Steward is likely to return at full back, meaning Smith will miss out on the starting XV after his exciting performance against Chile. England’s coaches will now have one eye on next week’s knockout game against Fiji and they are expected to leave out Henry Arundell, despite his five-try haul against Chile.
Flanker Tom Curry is expected to be drafted straight into the team after his suspension, combining with Ben Earl and Courtney Lawes in the back row.
Marcus Smith is expected to return to the bench as the Red Roses prepare to face Samoa
Due to injuries and suspensions, George Ford (right) and Owen Farrell (left) are yet to start together under Steve Borthwick
Meanwhile, Bill Sweeney on Wednesday insisted that he remains the right man to stay in charge at the RFU, despite a year of turmoil which has seen four clubs go bust, leading to an internal rebellion at the union.
The chief executive of English rugby’s governing body defended his position, having come in for fierce criticism as a result of so much upheaval in the domestic game. After declaring that the sudden collapse of Championship winners Jersey — who followed Worcester, Wasps and London Irish in going out of business — caught the RFU by surprise, Sweeney voiced his desire to stay in his post and oversee a turnaround.
‘It’s probably for others to say if they don’t feel I am the right person to do it,’ he said.
‘I personally feel I am, given my experience, my background, my balance of business and sport. I feel I am the right person to do that.
‘I came into this role for one simple reason, because I’m very passionate about this game.’
England play Samoa on Saturday at 4.45pm, the Red Roses have never lost this fixture
On the eve of England’s World Cup opener, against Argentina last month, 30 members of the RFU council — representing the grassroots game — put their names to a document that amounted to a motion of no confidence in the union hierarchy. But Sweeney took aim at figures behind the rebellion, which he claimed has now been quelled.
‘We’ve been dealing with a small group of people who are no longer in the game or have agendas that are not necessarily in the best interests of the game,’ he said.
‘We found receipt of a resolution on the night before the Argentina game — when there was some hope and maybe expectation that we might lose, therefore creating additional pressure — it was pretty cynical and did not have the best interests at heart.
‘It was not accurate. We discussed it at council on Friday and that resolution was withdrawn. The vast majority of council are really keen to work with us in a more open and transparent way.’
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