Smith given England start in experimental lineup


Marcus Smith will get an opportunity to impress for England ahead of the Rugby World Cup when he starts at fly-half in Saturday’s warm-up fixture against Wales in Cardiff, with three more players in line to debut.

Meanwhile, Warren Gatland made major changes to his Wales lineup that could see as many as five players earn their debut cap and fullback Leigh Halfpenny his 100th.

Smith was dropped following the abysmal 53-10 Six Nations defeat to France in March and replaced at No. 10 by Owen Farrell for England’s final fixture against Ireland.

But he has been given another chance by coach Steve Borthwick with regular captain Farrell, who has largely played centre in recent times, not been included in the matchday 23.

George Ford is the replacement fly-half on the bench and the team will be led by stand-in captain Ellis Genge. Smiths’ Harlequins teammate Danny Care will be his half-back partner, while the midfield is made up of Guy Porter and Joe Marchant.

Wings Joe Cokanasiga and Max Malins are in the back three along with fullback Freddie Steward.

Uncapped Tom Pearson gets a first run-out at flanker with Lewis Ludlam and No. 8 Alex Dombrandt the other members of the back row.

The lock pairing is David Ribbans and George Martin, who adds to his single cap, with props Genge and Will Stuart either side of hooker Jamie Blamire.

Prop Theo Dan is set to debut off the bench along with back row Tom Willis as Borthwick runs through his options ahead of Monday’s announcement of his 33-player squad for the World Cup in France.

“We have been impressed with how the whole squad has applied itself both on and off the field over this training camp,” Borthwick said in a media release from England Rugby.

“We are now looking forward to returning to test match rugby as we continue our preparations for the Rugby World Cup.”

Elswhere, debutants Keiron Assiratti (tighthead prop), Corey Domachowski (loosehead prop) and Max Llewellyn (centre) are all start for Wales, while Henry Thomas and Taine Plumtree are on the bench and could make a first appearance.

“There is some great competition among the squad in all positions and we’ve selected a team this week with a few debutants, because we want to give them the opportunity to see what they can do,” Gatland said in a media release from Welsh Rugby.

England XV:

Freddie Steward, Max Malins, Joe Marchant, Guy Porter, Joe Cokanasiga, Marcus Smith, Danny Care, Ellis Genge, Jamie Blamire, Will Stuart, David Ribbans, George Martin, Lewis Ludlam, Tom Pearson, Alex Dombrandt.

Replacements: Theo Dan, Bevan Rodd, Kyle Sinckler, Jonny Hill, Tom Willis, Jack van Poortvliet, George Ford, Henry Slade.

Wales XV:

Leigh Halfpenny, Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Max Llewellyn, Rio Dyer, Sam Costelow, Gareth Davies, Corey Domachowski, Ryan Elias, Keiron Assiratti, Dafydd Jenkins, Will Rowlands, Christ Tshiunza, Jac Morgan, Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith, Henry Thomas, Ben Carter, Taine Plumtree, Tomos Williams, Dan Biggar, Mason Grady.

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