England head coach Steve Borthwick is set to revert back to a tried and tested tactic deployed during Eddie Jones’ tenure in their final World Cup pool game.
Borthwick has all 33 players available for selection against Samoa and will reportedly name a strong matchday 23, despite their passage to the knockout stages already confirmed.
George Ford-Owen Farrell axis reinstated
Ford produced back-to-back man-of-the-match performances in England’s opening two games while Farrell was suspended, but the captain returned and started at fly-half against Chile.
The Ford-Farrell axis was a staple for England during Jones’ tenure as head coach before and after the 2019 World Cup, but due to injury and suspension, Borthwick has had limited opportunities to select the pairing together.
They combined in the second half of their match with Los Condores, but this is the first time they will have started together under the new boss.
With one eye on the quarter-finals, the head coach now looks set to unleash the combination alongside Manu Tuilagi, the likely starter at outside centre.
It would be Tuilagi’s first appearance against his country of birth and the team all five of his brothers – Henry, Alesana, Freddie, Anitelea and Sanele Vavae – all represented.
At scrum-half Alex Mitchell started England’s opening two games of the tournament, with Danny Care taking over for the third, but the clash with Samoa could see Ben Youngs get his first appearance in the number nine jersey, having come off the bench in the last two games.
Meanwhile, Freddie Steward is also likely to return to the starting XV, with Marcus Smith dropping out of the starting line-up despite an encouraging performance in the number 15 jumper last time out.
Elsewhere, Tom Curry has served his suspension after his red card in the opening game against Argentina and is expected to return in the run on team.
Change in eligibility laws
Ahead of the clash, tighthead prop Kyle Sinckler said that the change in World Rugby’s eligibility laws was an improvement to the game.
Sinckler is likely to come up against fellow Bristol Bears teammates Steven Luatua and Chris Vui on Saturday, with the former making use of the change after representing New Zealand between 2013 and 2016.
“Knowing Stevie [Luatua] personally, I know that playing for Samoa means a huge amount to him. Charles [Piutau], because he made the decision to go back and play for Tonga,” Sinckler said.
“They’re massively appreciative to have played for the All Blacks but the sense that I got from them was that they wanted to give something back to their community and where they’re from.
“Look at the Tonga game against South Africa and how competitive they were, and look at Samoa in the World Cup and how competitive they have been.
“It’s nothing but good for rugby in my opinion, those guys going back and strengthening those so-called tier two nations. It doesn’t feel like that when you play against these teams!
“The likes of Charles, Steven Luatua, Charlie Faumuina and Christian Leali’ifano are all world-class players. It’s good to see them playing and it’s good for rugby.”