Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global

Three semi-final changes for England, including two in the pack

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Paul Harding/Getty Images)

Steve Borthwick has made three changes to his England team for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final versus the Springboks in Paris, promoting Joe Marler and George Martin from the replacements to start in the place of the benched Ellis Genge and Ollie Chessum while Freddie Steward is reinstated at full-back in place of the absent Marcus Smith.


The English moved into the last four with last Sunday’s 30-24 quarter-final win over Fiji in Marseille, a match in which they brought Smith and Elliot Daly into the starting line-up at the expense of the excluded Steward and the benched George Ford.

Now, with the defending champions next on their knockout stage list, England have bolstered their pack by naming Marler and Martin to start at loosehead and second row with Genge and Chessum named as reserves on this occasion to try and ensure their team finishes the game strongly and counteracts the famed Springboks bomb squad tactic.

Video Spacer

Rugbypass TV

Watch rugby on demand, from exclusive shows and documentaries to extended highlights from RWC 2023. Anywhere. Anytime. All for free!

Join us

Video Spacer

Rugbypass TV

Watch rugby on demand, from exclusive shows and documentaries to extended highlights from RWC 2023. Anywhere. Anytime. All for free!

Join us

Smith, meanwhile, was in the wars at Stade Velodrome, missing part of the first half due to the HIA that was necessary following a clash to his head from the yellow-carded Vinaya Habosi. He was then restricted to modified training on Tuesday when England had their first run post the Fiji win and has now missed out on matchday selection due to a HIA return-to-play protocol setback, enabling the recall of Steward at No15.

Last weekend’s omission of the Leicester full-back for Smith was headline-generating as he had started 29 of England’s 30 matches from his July 2021 debut through to the Pool D win over Samoa, only sitting out last month’s game against Chile.

Rugby World Cup
15 - 16
South Africa
All Stats and Data

“After an excellent few days preparation in Paris, we look forward to the challenge of playing the world champions and number one ranked team in the world,” said Borthwick.

“Through this tournament, the team has progressed with the players repeatedly finding a way to win, sometimes in challenging circumstances. We will once again need to be at our very best this weekend as we face an excellent team in South Africa.


“There is no doubt the players will truly relish the challenge of knockout rugby under the lights in Paris. These players will, as they have done in every game of this tournament, give absolutely everything in the semi-final to get the result we want.

“I also know that our supporters will once again be there in their thousands, playing their part in backing the team with a full voice. To all those who have travelled and to all those lending their support and encouragement from home, I say, ‘Thank you’.”

Earlier on Thursday, Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber named the exact same XV that defeated France last Sunday night and opted to retain the same five/three forwards/backs bench split.

In doing so, the selection is the most experienced in South African history with a combined total of 895 caps – and 15 of the 23 played against England in the 32-12 World Cup final victory four years ago in Japan.


England (vs South Africa, Saturday – 9.0pm local time)
15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 29 caps)
14. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 77 caps)
13. Joe Marchant (Stade Francais, 24 caps)
12. Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 57 caps)
11. Elliot Daly (Saracens, 63 caps)
10. Owen Farrell – captain (Saracens, 110 caps)
9. Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, 10 caps)
1. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 87 caps)
2. Jamie George (Saracens, 83 caps)
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 105 caps)
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 74 caps)
5. George Martin (Leicester Tigers, 8 caps)
6. Courtney Lawes – vice-captain (Northampton Saints, 104 caps)
7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 48 caps)
8. Ben Earl (Saracens, 23 caps)

16. Theo Dan (Saracens, 6 caps)
17. Ellis Genge – vice-captain (Bristol Bears, 56 caps)
18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 67 caps)
19. Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, 16 caps)
20. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 74 caps)
21. Danny Care (Harlequins, 94 caps)
22. George Ford – vice-captain (Sale Sharks, 89 caps)
23. Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby, 19 caps)



Join free



Trending on RugbyPass


Donald 241 days ago

Solid, stolid, stock selection? Does Borthwick reckon his benched fr rowers, a lock are better as finishers? Wear the Saffas down in the last 1/4?

Is this back line going to score tries?

Will it matter?

Brad 241 days ago

Yes, make a big deal about 15/23 Boks being in the 2019 final and ignore the fact that the same applies to England.
10 of the named starting lineup plus KS, BV, GF on the bench were in the final. Loads of experience and motivation, opportunity to erase painful memories. They’ll be up for this big time. We’d better be too.

Tom 241 days ago

Chessum is a talented rugby player but just don't see him as being big enough or nasty enough for this. Ribbans is the best option in my book.

Dropping Smith while probably correct does reinforce my opinion of what was the point blooding him at 15 if you don't have the confidence in him to play there against a top side? It's a string to his bow I guess but England need some consistency in their selection and they have wasted a lot of time pissing about trying to shoehorn flyhalves across the backline.

Tris 241 days ago

A few interesting calls. There is probably a reason for the Martin decision. Wouldnt have picked it myself, but perhaps hoping to keep it close and bring Chessum on to add a bit in the last 20 or so.

Weather is supposed to be a stinker so tight 5 will probably have a few scrums on a heavy pitch which is normally a SA strong point.

Mark 241 days ago

The inclusion of George Martin is interesting, he’s an old fashioned leicester thumper, he offers more ballast at the scrum than chessum and with marler being brought in at loosehead, Borthwick obviously thinks this is his strongest front 5 at the set piece.
Im glad stewards back at FB, he's a hefty presence in the air and defence.
It'll be interesting.

Load More Comments

Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

TRENDING Bold RG Snyman call made as Munster change 4 for Glasgow semi-final Bold RG Snyman call made as Munster change 4 for Glasgow semi-final