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England are expected to take the bold step of naming Marcus Smith at full-back for Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final against Fiji in Marseille.
Smith is on course to make his second start in the position as head coach Steve Borthwick looks to inject pace and creativity into his back line at the expense of Freddie Steward.
A converted fly-half, Smith excelled in the group game against Chile when handed the number 15 jersey and has also starred during a number of cameos.
But Fiji are a step up in opposition, even if they lack the pinpoint kicking game to truly expose his inexperience in the position.
Borthwick names his team to face the Islanders on Friday afternoon and is expected to make another big call at fly-half with captain Owen Farrell likely to replace George Ford.
Ford was named man of the match in the emphatic Pool D wins against Argentina and Japan but the Sale ringmaster appears to have lost out to his rival’s greater impact in defence in what is a nod to the threat posed by Fiji’s power runners.
While the change at chief conductor would represent one of the biggest selection calls made by Borthwick, it is Smith’s presence at full-back that provides a key indication of how the team wants to play at Stade Velodrome.
England wing Elliot Daly said: “Marcus probably shifts in a little bit more to be that second ball player.
“Obviously with him being a 10, he wants to get his hands on the ball and organise on the outside.
“Freddie’s been brilliant since his debut at the back and I think he’s come on leaps and bounds, the last year especially, in the way he attacks.
“I don’t think much changes, but Marcus probably goes in a little bit closer and wants to be that proper second ball player.”
Daly is set to return to the side after being dropped for the tense 18-17 victory over Samoa that rounded off Pool D on a sour note, either on the wing or at outside centre.
If he is picked on the wing, the 31-year-old utility back intends to go hunting for the ball as one of a number of duties.
“I’m on the wing but really I’m there to try and get my hands on the ball, connect with the 10s and the 15s and try to get the ball wide really. Take opportunities when they’re on,” Daly said.
“As a winger now in international rugby you need to be able to do a lot. My role is to try to look for the ball and look for backfield space, feed that into the 10s or use my left foot to put it in there. There’s not one role any more.
“The best thing for me is that because I’ve played in those positions I understand what they need.
“I understand what communication I need to give to those guys to make their job a little bit easier.
“We’ve got a very fluid backline. The way we attack, we’re happy to get anybody on the ball and we just want to get it into space and into the right areas of the pitch.”
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