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Owen Farrell set to start for England against Ireland - reports

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Owen Farrell is set to be restored to the England starting line-up to take on Ireland when Steve Borthwick confirms his team at 5pm on Thursday. The volte-face comes a week after he was dramatically benched for the round four Guinness Six Nations match at home to France.

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Marcus Smith started in place of Farrell in that record 53-10 defeat, but the pair will now swap around roles again with Farrell retaking the No10 jersey from Smith and also taking back the captaincy from Ellis Genge.

Media reports in England claim that Smith is still expected to have a role to play, having apparently beaten off the competition from George Ford to secure a place on the replacements bench.

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The round five finale in Dublin is also expected to herald the return of Manu Tuilagi. Last weekend’s hamstring injury to Ollie Lawrence created a vacancy at inside centre that will be filled by Tuilagi, who has ended his suspension a week early following his completion of the World Rugby coaching intervention programme.

Tuilagi, who had been surplus to requirements for the opening two rounds of the championship, was red-carded when playing for Sale in mid-February, copping a four-game ban that was ultimately reduced to three.

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That availability means he is reportedly set to start at No12 with Farrell at out-half and Henry Slade at No13 – a combination that England last selected to start when defeating Australia in Oita in the 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

Regarding the forwards, the consensus heading into England team selection day was that Ollie Chessum, a starter at lock versus the French, had been primed for a blindside start with Lewis Ludlam switching to No8 and Alex Dombrandt dropping out.

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That plan had to be rejigged on Tuesday when Chessum suffered a training ground ankle injury, resulting in the call-up to the squad of 30 of George Martin.

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