Captain Owen Farrell relishing return to England fray against Chile

Owen Farrell relishing England return in low-key clash against Chile after serving four-match ban… with the fly-half to continue as captain for the rest of the World Cup

  • Owen Farrell returns for England on Saturday having served four-match ban 
  • He received a red card for high tackle on Taine Basham during win over Wales
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

After Steve Borthwick recalled Owen Farrell on Thursday, he was asked if the Test centurion would continue as England’s leader for the rest of this World Cup. The answer was emphatic.

‘I picked Owen as captain back in June, and have been very clear on that,’ said the national coach. Debate over — if there ever was any real debate. There certainly wasn’t in Borthwick’s mind.

While George Ford has performed superbly at 10 in the wins over Argentina and Chile, and Courtney Lawes has stepped up as an authoritative stand-in skipper, Farrell’s status was not in jeopardy while he served his high-tackle ban.

Back comes the Saracen to start at fly-half against Chile here on Saturday, with Ford rotated to a bench role and Marcus Smith unleashed at full-back from the off, for the first time.

Farrell has been impatiently waiting to join this campaign. His sense of anticipation was evident when he spoke last night, despite the relatively low-key nature of the occasion which awaits.

Captain Owen Farrell returns at fly-half for England having completed his four-match ban

Farrell received a red card for a high tackle on Taine Basham during win over Wales in August

‘I’m massively excited, he said. ‘I’ve been looking forward to getting to the World Cup and it’s been tough-ish not playing, but it’s been brilliant to see how well the lads have been doing on the pitch. I’m desperate to be part of it, I can’t wait.

‘George has been playing brilliantly and the lads have done really well the last couple of weeks. They’ve played really smart, winning rugby so far. The team’s figured out ways to impose themselves on the game and, when they’re out there, how to close off games, which is a big plus. Everything I’ve seen, it’s been good, but we will always be trying to improve.’

Borthwick described Farrell as an ‘incredibly influential off-field leader’ so far in this tournament. He has been typically prominent during training at England’s base in Le Touquet on the north coast — and he has been vocal behind the scenes, too.

‘Since we found out about the ban, my role was clear,’ said the 31-year-old. ‘I was glad I was able to keep training, it’s not like where you’re injured and you’re sat on the sidelines and can’t do too much. I’ve still been part of the group, which was good, but ultimately you still want to be out there at the weekend.

‘I’ve been doing anything I can. I’ve just been here to help so far. Obviously, train well, first and foremost. I’ve not been too quiet. I’ve been doing stuff as I saw fit, backing myself a little bit that I have a good enough feel for what the team needs.’

It turns out that Farrell has also been pretty vocal during matches. Vocal and passionate, while stuck in the stands. He admitted that being a spectator doesn’t suit him and he found the whole unusual experience draining, during the early Pool D fixtures in Marseille and Nice, on the opening two weekends.

When asked whether he tried to detach himself while watching on, he said: ‘I don’t detach myself, no. I’m knackered by the end, to be honest! Especially after that first one. 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 is just more the emotion of the game. I go through it all.’

Among a raft of changes as Borthwick uses the depth in his squad for this game, there will be a major focus on Smith’s first starting appearance at full-back.

The head coach said: ‘We’ve been working on him as a 15 option from very early in our camps. Given the way he has played in that position, he deserves this opportunity.

Marcus Smith will start in an unfamiliar full back role in a revamped England side against Chile 

‘Everyone knows his ability with ball in hand. Everyone knows he’s got a great tactical kicking game. Having that ball in space at 15 gives him even more time to find opportunities and find more space.

‘What we are seeing is that his ability under the high ball is very good and he is a really tough, brave defender. You don’t want your full-back to make many tackles but when you do, they are usually pretty important ones. Marcus has shown himself to bring a real intensity to his defence as well.’

Joining Smith in a revamped back-three unit is Henry Arundell. 

Asked about the inclusion of the turbo-charged, rookie wing, Borthwick added: ‘Henry has got a special talent and ability to beat people. He is a very instinctive player, so I talk to him about backing his instincts. If he makes a decision to go, then go — beat people. It’s what he does so very, very well. The team needs to play to his strengths. I want the ball in Henry’s hands.’


M Smith (Harlequins); H Arundell (Racing 92), E Daly (Saracens), O Lawrence (Bath), M Malins (Bristol); O Farrell (capt. Saracens), D Care (Harlequins); B Rodd (Sale), T Dan (Saracens), K Sinckler (Bristol); D Ribbans (Toulon), G Martin (Leicester); L Ludlam (Northampton), B Vunipola (Saracens), J Willis (Toulouse). 

Replacements: J Walker (Harlequins), J Marler (Harlequins), W Stuart (Bath), O Chessum (Leicester), B Earl (Saracens), B Youngs (Leicester), G Ford (Sale), J Marchant (Stade Francais).

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