Smith starts against Wales with Genge captain

Marcus Smith
Marcus Smith currently has 21 caps for England
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Date: Saturday, 5 August Kick-off: 17:30 BST
Coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

Marcus Smith will start at fly-half for England against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, with Ellis Genge captaining the side.

Smith, 24, last started for England in the 53-10 defeat by France in the Six Nations, and is joined by Harlequins team-mate Danny Care at scrum-half.

Flanker Tom Pearson makes his debut, while potential debutants Theo Dan and Tom Willis are on the bench.

Max Malins is the only player from the Premiership final in the starting XV.

This is the team’s final match before head coach Steve Borthwick confirms his 33-man squad for the World Cup in France on Monday morning.

Regular captain Owen Farrell, plus fellow stalwarts Jamie George and Maro Itoje are absent from the squad after winning the Premiership with Saracens against Sale.

There are only five starters from the team that played Ireland in the Six Nations finale. Prop Genge is joined in the new front row by Newcastle hooker Jamie Blamire and Bath’s Will Stuart, with David Ribbans and George Martin in the second row.

Both Lewis Ludlam and Alex Dombrandt started the game against Ireland and are joined by debutant Pearson in the back row.

In the backline, Leicester centre Guy Porter partners Stade Francais’ Joe Marchant in a new-look midfield, with Bath winger Joe Cokanasiga returning to the side.

Full-back Freddie Steward, who was sent off in the defeat by Ireland, also remains in the starting XV.

Uncapped players

Pearson, who was formerly of London Irish before signing for Northampton for next season, won the Premiership’s breakthrough player of the year award in 2023. An all-action flanker, the 23-year-old trained with England during the 2022 Six Nations and will look to impress Borthwick.

Hooker Dan, 22, could also make his debut. He began his youth career on the wing and at centre before transitioning into the front row during his time in the Saracens academy.

Learning his new trade on loan at Old Alleynian in level nine of the Rugby Union League, Dan has climbed through the pyramid of English rugby at a rapid rate. He then featured in National League 1 for Bishop’s Stortford, before starting last season at Ampthill.

His breakthrough season ended with a Premiership winners medal, playing 70 minutes of the final after an early injury to George.

Willis, 24, is the oldest of the potential debutants and will be keen to secure his place in the World Cup squad alongside brother Jack. Similar to his brother, he spent the year in France playing in the Top 14 with Bordeaux Begles following the financial collapse of his boyhood club Wasps, and will play his rugby at Saracens next season.


England: Steward; Malins, Marchant, Porter, Cokanasiga; Smith, Care; Genge (capt), Blamire, Stuart; Ribbans, Martin; Ludlam, Pearson, Dombrandt.

Replacements: Dan, Rodd, Sinckler, Hill, T Willis, Van Poortvliet, Ford, Slade.

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