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Woodward praises axing of Owen Farrell just 2 days after backing him for RWC

By Ian Cameron
England skipper Owen Farrell (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward has backed the sensational dropping of England flyhalf Owen Farrell for their Guinness Six Nations match with France in favour of Marcus Smith – a call which has been flagged in reports out of the UK this week.

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While the team is yet to be named, according to reports, Borthwick has made the bold decision to drop Farrell and instead choose the Harlequins maverick for Le Crunch, a move which comes as England struggle to find their rhythm this season.

The 24-year-old Smith has been in exceptional form for his club Harlequins, leading them to their first Premiership title in 2021, form which he has taken into the 2022/23 season. His selection brings a fresh perspective to England’s game, and many believe his attacking flair and creativity will be crucial in unlocking the French defence in Twickenham.

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Although it’s a risky move to drop a player of Farrell’s calibre, Borthwick’s decision is a clear statement that no one is safe from being dropped if they are not performing up to standards. It also signals a shift towards a more dynamic and exciting brand of rugby.

Woodward is full of praise for Borthwick’s call, saying that sometimes coaches must go with their ‘gut instinct’.

“We’ve all dropped big players,” Woodward told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “You have got to make those calls. It’s still early days for Steve and, if you are going to make these big calls to try to find out your best starting team, you need to make them early in your career.

“I was looking forward to the game anyway, but even more so now that Smith starts at 10.”

His comments are a surprise given he wrote that Owen Farrell is the man that can win the Rugby World Cup for England in seven months’ time.

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Writing in his Daily Mail column just two days ago, Woodward wrote: “For the good of England’s progression, Borthwick needs to nail his colours to the mast in terms of who he picks at fly-half. Some might say he has already done so by naming Farrell as captain for this Six Nations and picking him ahead of Smith for the games against Italy and Wales. Today, my choice would be Farrell, too.”

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England face a formidable French side at Twickenham, and the pressure is on for Smith to deliver. Borthwick’s faith in the young flyhalf could prove to be the spark that England needs to turn their fortunes around in this Six Nations campaign.

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