22 September 2023

5 talking points ahead of England’s World Cup clash with Chile

22 September 2023

England continue their march towards the World Cup quarter-finals when they clash with Chile in Lille on Saturday.

While victory is expected from Steve Borthwick’s men, the South Americans will provide stiff opposition.

Here, the PA news agency examines five talking points heading into the game.

Smith unleashed

To England’s credit they have found a role for one of the most exciting talents in the game – albeit through a positional slight of hand. All eyes at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy will be on Marcus Smith’s first start at full-back after he produced exhilarating cameos in the position as a replacement in the last four Tests. A magician of a fly-half, Smith’s playmaking and running skills have flourished at 15 and the young Harlequin has the opportunity to show he is a viable alternative to Freddie Steward.

Farrell to make his mark

After a delay enforced by his four-match ban for a dangerous tackle, Owen Farrell finally makes his first appearance at France 2023. England’s captain has been champing at the bit to make his presence felt having watched the conclusive victories over Argentina and Japan from the stands, which he described as an exhausting experience because of his emotional investment in the team. Farrell is reinstated at fly-half and has a tough act to follow after George Ford delivered successive man-of-the-match performances against the Pumas and Brave Blossoms. The squad’s talisman will use the run-out to bank precious minutes on the field before forming a playmaking axis alongside Ford for the tougher tests ahead.

Playmaking trio

The enticing prospect of England fielding three fly-halves is expected to materialise in the second half when Ford steps off the bench. It means that Farrell, Ford and Smith will be operating in unison as a ball playing trio, providing the platform for the likes of Elliot Daly and Max Malins to run riot. Fly-half is a position of strength for England and head coach Borthwick will seize the opportunity to take a closer look at his creative options.

Billy needs to shine

Billy Vunipola needs a big performance if he is to wrestle the number eight jersey off his Saracens team-mate Ben Earl, whose rampaging displays have placed him in pole position for selection against Samoa on October 7. Vunipola has completed his two-match ban for a dangerous tackle against Ireland in the third warm-up Test and it could emerge as a costly suspension that has given his rival the opportunity to stake his claim. Stiffer challenges than Chile await and Vunipola must display his ball carrying clout against the side ranked 22 in the world to present Borthwick with a welcome selection conundrum.

Banana skin hazard

While there have been a handful of wipe-outs so far in this World Cup, there have also been stirring performances from lower-ranked sides that show victories against emerging nations cannot be taken for granted. Uruguay and Portugal have been a revelation and made France and Wales respectively work hard for their wins. Chile beat the USA to qualify for the tournament and have gone down fighting against Japan and Samoa, so it will be a tough 80 minutes if England fail to give the World Cup debutants due respect.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox