The Rugby World Cup is finally about to start for Owen Farrell.
On the pitch, anyway.
Because off it, the England captain has still been having an influence on his teammates despite being banned from playing while he served the final part of his four-match ban for a dangerous tackle in the Rugby World Cup warmup games.
“We are all tremendously excited to see our captain on the grass on Saturday,” England coach Steve Borthwick said on Thursday after naming a much-changed team for a Pool D match against Chile that contained Farrell at flyhalf and Marcus Smith in the unusual position of fullback.
“He has been an incredible leader for this team despite being unable to play in the first two games of the World Cup. He has been a fantastic influence. He has been a role model on the training field and off the training field.”
Farrell had to serve the ban for planting his shoulder into the head of Wales back-rower Taine Basham at Twickenham on Aug. 12. The suspension took in World Cup games against Argentina and Japan, both of which England won to virtually secure a place in the quarterfinals at a time when many have been writing off Borthwick’s side.
Farrell said it hadn’t been an easy watch from the sidelines, with England delivering a rousing performance with 14 men after Tom Curry’s third-minute red card to beat Argentina and recovering from a slow start against Japan eight days later to produce a high-octane final quarter of the match and romp home to a 34-12 win.
“I don’t detach myself from it — I’m knackered by the end, to be honest. Especially after that first one against Argentina,” Farrell said. “I wouldn’t describe myself as a good watcher. I feel involved, I feel like I’m out there at times.
“I feel every emotion that goes with it, sometimes even more than I would if I was playing. I wouldn’t describe myself as the best in the stands. I wouldn’t say I am unbelievably loud, it’s just more the emotion of the game. I feel like I go through it all the time. I’m massively excited to be back. I’ve been looking forward to getting to the World Cup and it’s been tough-ish not playing.
Smith, who gives England more X-factor than any other player in the squad, is rewarded for a lively counterattacking display against Japan off the bench — a role he has had in the previous four tests.
It’s the first time he has started at No. 15 for England.
“You see an exciting, talented player who finds space,” said Borthwick, who has rested many of his first-choice players.
“I am pleased at the way this squad is building into this tournament. I am pleased how we have progressed.”
Center Ollie Lawrence is recalled and wingers Henry Arundell and Max Malins come in for their first appearances of the tournament. Prop Bevan Rodd and lock David Ribbans will get World Cup debuts, and hooker Theo Dan, lock George Martin and scrumhalf Danny Care start for the first time in this campaign.
“One of the many great things about the Rugby World Cup is that the tournament provides an excellent opportunity to play against teams that we rarely have a chance to see,” England coach Steve Borthwick said. “It is for that reason that we are particularly looking forward to testing ourselves against Chile on Saturday.”
Chile coach Pablo Lemoine, who scored a try for Uruguay in its 111-13 battering by England at the 2003 World Cup, retained only six starters from the 43-10 loss to Samoa.
England: Marcus Smith, Henry Arundell, Elliot Daly, Ollie Lawrence, Max Malins, Owen Farrell (captain), Danny Care; Billy Vunipola, Jack Willis, Lewis Ludlam, George Martin, David Ribbans, Kyle Sinckler, Theo Dan, Bevan Rodd. Reserves: Jack Walker, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Ollie Chessum, Ben Earl, Ben Youngs, George Ford, Joe Marchant.
Chile: Francisco Urroz, Cristobal Game, Domingo Saavedra, Matias Garafulic, Franco Velarde, Rodrigo Fernandez, Benjamin Videla; Alfonso Escobar, Ignacio Silva, Martín Sigren (captain), Javier Eissmann, Clemente Saavedra, Matias Dittus, Augusto Bohme, Salvador Lues. Reserves: Tomas Dussaillant, Vittorio Lastra, Inaki Gurruchaga, Pablo Huete, Thomas Orchard, Raimundo Martínez, Lukas Carvallo, Inaki Ayarza.
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