George Ford and Owen Farrell both start for England against Samoa

By Sports Desk October 05, 2023

England have reunited playmakers George Ford and Owen Farrell in their backline for Saturday’s final World Cup group match against Samoa in Lille.

They start together for the first time since the 2021 Six Nations as Steve Borthwick revives the creative axis that has excelled for England in the past as he assesses his options for the quarter-final.

Ford starts at fly-half having produced man-of-the-match displays against Argentina and Japan while Farrell shifts to inside centre to accommodate his rival for the 10 jersey.

Farrell needs two more points to become England’s highest scorer of all time, eclipsing the mark of 1,179 set by Jonny Wilkinson.

Manu Tuilagi is picked at 13 to provide a ball-carrying threat in what will be a special occasion for the Sale powerhouse, who faces the nation of his birth for the first time.

Joe Marchant is squeezed out of the midfield but finds a home on to the right wing, meaning there is no place for Henry Arundell despite his five-try haul against Chile.

Arundell drops out of the 23 altogether, as does Elliot Daly with Jonny May winning the race to start on the other wing as part of a back three that sees Freddie Steward replace Marcus Smith.

The urge to give Smith another run at full-back has been resisted but the rapid Harlequins ringmaster is poised to complete another cameo off the bench at Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

England are at full strength against Samoa and evidence of Ben Earl’s rise as a force on the Test stage is seen in his selection at number eight ahead of Billy Vunipola, who features on the bench.

Tom Curry is restored at openside after playing just 179 seconds against Argentina, at which point he was sent off for a dangerous tackle that resulted in a two-match ban which he completed against Chile.

A surprise pick in the front row sees Dan Cole preferred ahead of Kyle Sinckler at tighthead prop.

England qualified for the quarter-finals as Pool D winners on September 28 when Japan beat Samoa, allowing them to advance to a knockout appointment with likely opponents Fiji despite having a match to spare.

Borthwick said: “Whilst we are of course pleased with our results and qualification into the pool stages, we want to continue our improvement with a positive performance against a difficult and in-form Samoa team.

“Samoa are renowned for their physicality and this last game in the pool stages will be an excellent test for us as we continue in our World Cup journey.”

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