Freddie Steward returns at full-back for England's semi-final with South Africa

Freddie Steward celebrates his try for England v Japan at 2023 Rugby World Cup Freddie Steward was dropped for England's quarter-final with Fiji (David Davies/PA)

Freddie Steward returns at full-back in one of three changes made by England for Saturday’s World Cup semi-final against South Africa at Stade de France.

Steward was dropped for the first time in his 29-cap Test career for the last-eight victory over Fiji, losing the number 15 jersey to the more attack-minded Marcus Smith.

But Smith finished the Marseille showdown with a fat lip and bandaged head following his defensive heroics – becoming an injury doubt – and has now been left out of the 23 altogether.

Steward provides high-ball expertise, positional savvy and solid defence and is the safer option in the position given the strength of South Africa’s kicking game.

The remaining two changes are seen in the front five where Joe Marler starts ahead of Ellis Genge and George Martin comes in for Ollie Chessum – both unexpected adjustments.

England field eight survivors from the starting XV that was overrun 32-12 by South Africa in the 2019 World Cup final, the same number picked by the Springboks who named their team earlier on Thursday morning.

Marler, who was on the bench in Yokohama four years ago, is England’s strongest scrummaging loosehead prop, while 22-year-old rookie Martin is making only his fourth start in 10 Tests.

Captain Owen Farrell continues at fly-half after his man-of-the-match display against Fiji with George Ford providing cover as a replacement.

“After an excellent few days preparation in Paris, we look forward to the challenge of playing the world champions and number one ranked team in the world,” head coach Steve Borthwick said.

“Through this tournament the team has progressed, with the players repeatedly finding a way to win, sometimes in challenging circumstances.

“We will once again need to be at our very best this weekend as we face an excellent team in South Africa.

“There is no doubt the players will truly relish the challenge of knockout rugby under the lights in Paris.

“These players will, as they have done in every game of this tournament, give absolutely everything in the semi-final to get the result we want.

“I also know that our supporters will once again be there in their thousands, playing their part in backing the team with a full voice.

“To all those who have travelled and to all those lending their support and encouragement from home, I say ‘thank you’.”

England team to face South Africa in Rugby World Cup Semi-Final

Forwards: 1 Joe Marler (Harlequins), 2 Jamie George (Saracens), 3 Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), 4 Maro Itoje (Saracens), 5 George Martin (Leicester Tigers), 6 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), 7 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks), 8 Ben Earl (Saracens)

Backs: 9 Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints), 10 Owen Farrell (CAPTAIN, Saracens), 11 Elliot Daly (Saracens), 12 Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks), 13 Joe Marchant (Stade Francais), 14 Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), 15 Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers)

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan (Saracens), 17 Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears), 18 Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears), 19 Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers), 20 Billy Vunipola (Saracens), 21 Danny Care (Harlequins), 22 George Ford (Sale Sharks), 23 Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby)

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