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Rugby World Cup: George Ford, Owen Farrell start for England vs Samoa | Marcus Smith benched

George Ford starts at fly-half for England vs Samoa while Owen Farrell captains side from inside centre; Marcus Smith dropped to bench as Freddie Steward starts at full-back; Jack Willis ruled out of rest of World Cup due to injury; England assured of top spot in Pool D

Farrell, Ford
Image: Owen Farrell and George Ford have both been named to start for England

Owen Farrell and George Ford have both been named to start for England in Saturday's Rugby World Cup Pool D match against Samoa, with skipper Farrell moving into midfield.

The selection is the first time head coach Steve Borthwick has chosen to deploy Ford and Farrell in a dual 10-12 playmaking axis, and the first time at all since March 2021, with Marcus Smith dropping to the bench as a result of Freddie Steward returning at full-back.

Borthwick also confirmed on Thursday that back-row Jack Willis' World Cup is over due to a neck injury, and a replacement will be in camp for the start of next week.

England are assured of top spot and progression to the quarter-finals already, having won their opening three pool games.

Should Fiji take at least a point in their final pool game against Portugal, they will be England's last-eight opponents on October 15.

Marcus Smith starred for England against Chile, when he started at 15
Image: Marcus Smith, who starred for England at full-back against Chile, has been dropped to the bench

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James Cole explains the permutations involved in Pool B at the Rugby World Cup which could see either Ireland, Scotland or defending world champions South Africa being knocked out of the tournament

Centre Manu Tuilagi - playing the country of his birth for the first time - shifts to outside centre to accommodate Farrell starting at 12, while Joe Marchant moves to the right wing, with no spot in the team or squad for Henry Arundell, who scored five tries against Chile last time out.

Elsewhere in the backs, Jonny May starts on the left wing, while Alex Mitchell comes back into the side at scrum-half.

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In the forwards, Tom Curry returns to start at openside flanker following his suspension for a high tackle red card against Argentina in England's World Cup opener.

Tom Curry
Image: Tom Curry returns to start for England after completing his suspension

Courtney Lawes at blindside flanker and Ben Earl at No 8 complete the back-row, with Billy Vunipola named on the bench.

Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum combine in the second row, while loosehead Ellis Genge, hooker Jamie George and tighthead Dan Cole - the latter in ahead of Kyle Sinckler - form the front-row.

Hooker Theo Dan, loosehead Joe Marler, lock George Martin, scrum-half Danny Care and centre Ollie Lawrence join Smith, Vunipola and Sinckler on the replacements bench.

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Eleanor Roper reflects on England's resounding 71-0 victory over Chile in Pool D

England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Joe Marchant, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Owen Farrell (c), 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Alex Mitchell; 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Jamie George, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Ollie Chessum, 6 Courtney Lawes, 7 Tom Curry, 8 Ben Earl.

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 George Martin, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Danny Care, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Ollie Lawrence.

Borthwick 'really disappointed for Willis' | 'Excited to see Ford, Farrell partnership'

England head coach Borthwick told media on Thursday...

"We're really disappointed for Jack [Willis] because he's been an important member of this team.

"He's done really well, played an important role in the Chile game and is an important member of this squad over the last period of time.

"We anticipate the injury will be just a few weeks but given the timescales we're operating to it means he will be replaced in the 33.

England head coach Steve Borthwick
Image: England head coach Steve Borthwick

"We are very focused on this game. Samoa are a really strong, powerful side, they have a lot of pace and they play a physical type of rugby.

"Our preparation has been has been strong. I'm really pleased with the team this week.

"We had a break and came to training incredible refreshed and I think that the team has continued to build through this tournament.

"I'm very excited to see that partnership [Ford and Farrell] go together."

Samoa make nine changes

Samoa have named an all-new tight five as coach Seilala Mapusua makes nine changes for their must-win match in Lille, where his team will have the slimmest of quarter-final hopes.

Samoa must win by 29 points or more with a bonus-point against an England side who have secured top spot in the group, and hope Sunday's match between Japan and Argentina ends in a draw without either side taking a try-scoring bonus-point.

Samoa: 15 Duncan Paia'aua, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Danny Toala, 11 Neria Fomai, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Jonathan Taumateine; 1 Jordan Lay, 2 Sama Malolo, 3 Michael Alaalatoa (c), 4 Sam Slade, 5 Brian Alainu'u'ese, 6 Theo McFarland, 7 Fritz Lee, 8 Steven Luatua.

Replacements: 16 Seilala Lam, 17 James Lay, 18 Paul Alo Emile, 19 Sootala Fa'aso'o, 20 Alamanda Motuga, 21 Melani Matavao, 22 Christian Leali'ifano, 23 Miracle Faiilagi.

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