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Cipriani takes issue with England dropping Marcus Smith again

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

Danny Cipriani has expressed disappointment that Marcus Smith lost the England No10 shirt to Owen Farrell when Steve Borthwick confirmed his latest team at 5pm on Thursday. The wounded English are travelling to Dublin ahead of Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations finale versus the title-chasing Ireland.


Pre-departure media reports all indicated that Farrell, who was benched last week against France, would be restored as the starting out-half, with Smith left stewing on the bench for the third time in the tournament. So it proved.

Smith started alongside Farrell in the opening round versus Scotland when head coach Borthwick continued the Eddie Jones tactic of playing the pair as a 10/12 combination. However, that gambit was scrapped after the defeat and Farrell started as the No10 versus Italy and Wales with Smith on the bench.

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Those roles were reversed against France, Smith named as the starting out-half and Farrell among the replacements, but Borthwick’s latest rejig will now see Farrell start in Dublin with Smith back to providing bench cover.

It’s a development that Cipriani alleged told him more about rookie head coach Borthwick, who has struggled to impress, than Smith, who had been Jones’ number one out-half in the last year of his tenure.


Writing in his latest Sportsmail column, Cipriani began: “I’m disappointed. I had been hoping that England would stick with Marcus Smith at 10 against Ireland but it looks like he is going to be dropped again. If he is left out, I don’t think it will damage him because he is a tough character.


“It would tell me more about Steve Borthwick than about Marcus. It could show that he is uncertain about what he is doing as a coach, or that he has a lack of compassion for individuals. That’s just how I view it.

“The right call would have been to give Marcus another chance. Borthwick made the decision last week to go with him, so I really thought he should be backed and given the next four or five games, leading up to the World Cup.

“Instead, Owen Farrell is coming back at 10, but we all know exactly how it’s going to look if either Farrell or George Ford start. Borthwick knows that too. Both are both very good players but for me, the ceiling is slightly higher with Marcus, so as the coach I would want to see what that looks like.

“If Borthwick drops him again, that’s more big headlines. The coaches can have a chat with Marcus and say: ‘We’re looking to go in this other direction because we feel it will suit the tactics’ – but you know exactly what the fanfare and the spin on it is going to be. You have got to be super confident as a coach that the player you are speaking to and leaving out can handle all that.


“It might make Marcus go back and play even better at his club. Any time there was any adversity or controversy around me, I’d get the bit between my teeth. I think he’s got that grit about him too. He feels a responsibility to bring people into rugby and help grow the game. The fact that he even thinks like that shows his heart and the fight he has got in him.”


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