Sign up to our free sport newsletter for all the latest news on everything from cycling to boxing
Sign up to our free sport email for all the latest news
Thanks for signing up to the
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.
He’s done it consistently at club level and now it’s about now doing it consistently at international level
“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.”
Source: Read Full Article