Steve Borthwick is poised to reprise the George Ford and Owen Farrell midfield partnership for the final Pool D match, against Samoa on Saturday, while Joe Marchant is in line for a surprise start on the wing.
Ford has been recalled at fly-half to play alongside Farrell, who shifts to inside centre. Having been a staple partnership of the past World Cup cycle under Eddie Jones leading up to the 2019 final, it would be their first start together since March 2021.
It is understood that Borthwick was keen to road test the combination again in the World Cup warm-up match away to Ireland, only for Farrell to receive a red card in the previous game against Wales that led to the England captain serving a four-match suspension. Ford came on early in the second half against Chile with a further fly-half in Marcus Smith also playing, at full-back. Smith is likely to have to settle for a place on the bench with Freddie Steward expected to return to the No 15 shirt.
Marchant is prized for his versatility but has been exclusively used by Borthwick at outside centre up until this point. Telegraph Sport understands that the 27-year-old has won the nod for a wing spot ahead of Henry Arundell, who scored a record five tries in the 71-0 demolition of Chile. Jonny May and full-back Steward complete the back three.
Sinckler: Fans do not know what is really going on in our camp
Manu Tuilagi is in line to face Samoa, the country of his birth, for the first time in his career and team-mate Kyle Sinckler says that he will relish the occasion. “Obviously Manu’s been around the block for a while now, but he’s never actually played against Samoa,” Sinckler said. “So I think he’s looking forward to it, and it should be fun.”
England have already bagged a quarter-final place after three wins in Pool D but have made clear they will not be taking their foot off the pedal against Samoa and are expected to pick their strongest possible pack with the likes of Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes and Ben Earl all set to return.
After coming into the World Cup off the back of a run of five defeats in six games, the mood around the England camp has been transformed in France, although prop Sinckler maintains that the players always had the belief that they would come good at the tournament.
“The warm-ups were disappointing but in my experiences of warm-ups it’s more of a process of finding your feet and getting minutes and coming out of the game not with too many knocks and bruises,” Sinckler said. “As soon as we landed in Le Touquet we were just ready to go, our training ramped up, our energy ramped up. We felt better in ourselves and we just had an air of confidence about us. That’s down to the prep we’ve done.
“I’ve done a lot of pre-seasons and this was one of the hardest, but also the smartest that I’ve been a part of. As a squad we’re very focused on what’s important to us and not the expectations of others and people who don’t know what’s really and truly going on inside the group. It’s great you guys are believing in us but from day one we’ve believed in ourselves and that will never change.”