Marcus Smith given full-back role for England's Rugby World Cup quarter-final

Marcus Smith after England v Samoa match during 2023 Rugby World Cup Marcus Smith will start at full-back for England’s clash with Fiji (Mike Egerton/PA)

England have rolled the dice for Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final against Fiji by naming Marcus Smith at full-back in place of the jettisoned Freddie Steward.

Steward has been an automatic pick since making his Test debut in July 2021 but the high-ball master is omitted from the 23 entirely as Steve Borthwick instead opts for the greater attacking threat supplied by Smith.

It will be the converted fly-half’s second start in the number 15 jersey having starred against Chile during the group phase, but Fiji are a significant step up in opposition even if they lack a top-class kicking game.

Among Smith’s duties will be acting as a second playmaker to captain Owen Farrell, who has been picked at fly-half ahead of George Ford for England’s biggest game since the 2019 World Cup final.

It is another seismic selection call from Borthwick given that Ford was man of the match in the Pool D victories over Argentina and Japan and is the form player in the position.

The Sale ringmaster is confined to a supporting role from the bench as Borthwick delivers a show of faith in his skipper, who will be making his third appearance at the World Cup.

Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marchant have been reunited in the centres and Elliot Daly is restored to the left wing as part of the backline reshuffle headlined by Smith’s return.

In total there are two changes in personnel and two positional switches to the side that edged Samoa 18-17 in Lille last Saturday with Borthwick keeping faith with the same pack.

England enter the Marseille showdown as strong favourites but were defeated 30-22 by Fiji in their most recent meeting.

“Everyone knows just what an unpredictably dangerous opposition Fiji can be,” Borthwick said.

“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 team to face Fiji in Rugby World Cup Quarter-Final

Forwards: 1 Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears), 2 Jamie George (Saracens), 3 Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), 4 Maro Itoje (Saracens), 5 Ollie Chessum (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 Marcus Smith (Harlequins)

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

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