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Clive Woodward names the No10 that can win England the World Cup

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Clive Woodward has called on head coach Steve Borthwick to end the confusion over the England No10 position. Tuesday afternoon’s decision to cut George Ford from this week’s squad has been followed by speculation that Marcus Smith – a sub in the last two Guinness Six Nations matches – will now be the starting out-half versus France, with skipper Owen Farrell dropping to the bench.


It will be 1:30pm on Thursday when Borthwick confirms his XV for the round four game and in the meantime, ex-England boss Woodward has explained the importance of the current coach nominating a first choice No10 now and sticking with that player through to the upcoming World Cup in France.

Writing in his latest Sportsmail column, Woodward outlined the need for Borthwick to quickly make up his mind, stating that if the ambition is for England to win the 2023 World Cup then Farrell must be backed as the clear first choice pick.

“If you take a look at the teams who have won World Cups, you realise each had an outstanding No10 – a kingpin fly-half who was the undisputed first choice and arguably the most important player in the team,” began Woodward. “Over the years, Michael Lynagh, Joel Stransky, Stephen Larkham, Jonny Wilkinson, Dan Carter and Handre Pollard have fulfilled that role for their respective nations.

“As the England team of 2023 look to finish the Six Nations on a high and bid to win the World Cup later this year, there remains plenty of debate over who Steve Borthwick should play at fly-half. Should it be Owen Farrell or Marcus Smith? What about George Ford?


“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.”

Woodward didn’t forget it wasn’t that long ago he was cheerleading for Smith to be the starting England No10. “Twelve to 18 months ago, I was calling for Smith to start so he could get the time needed ahead of the World Cup. Now, that time has been lost. It was wasted by the previous regime.


“Importantly, that time has also been lost in finding the right No9 and No12. Jack van Poortvliet has great promise but is too inconsistent. Ollie Lawrence has stepped up in the last two games, albeit against the weakest teams in the tournament. Both need more time and Farrell offers the experienced hand to guide them.

“If Borthwick continues down the Farrell path and is resolute in doing so, then I applaud him because as an international coach, you must have the courage of your convictions with selection. It is the most important part of the job at Test level.

“Whatever happens and whoever Borthwick thinks is his first choice in his heart of hearts, I urge him to make that call quickly, even though it’s a big decision. If you want a chance of winning this World Cup then Farrell has to be selected. If you want to win in four years’ time, then start to build your team around Smith.

“Having two, or in England’s case three, excellent fly-halves might seem a strength on paper, but it can be more of a weakness… This week is the time to put that confusion to bed.”


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Tim 464 days ago

I actually agree with Clive about this, Borthwick needs to pick his 10 and build around him.

I disagree that there are 3 excellent fly-halves, I think it’s more like 3 mediocre fly-halves and therein lies the problem for England.

Steve 464 days ago

Shocker, Clive Woodward having a dig at Eddie Jones again. I fully respect that he won the world cup with England but that was 20 years ago, the game has changed so much since then.
He also seems to forget that Smith played a lot for England and it never really clicked, for whatever reason that may be, sometimes great club players can't make the transition to international.

Joseph 465 days ago

No tribalism intended, but....England win the World Cup? I think it extremely unlikely. A bit unkind to omit Springbok Butch James from your list of influential flyhalves.

finn 465 days ago

"Twelve to 18 months ago, I was calling for Smith to start so he could get the time needed ahead of the World Cup. Now, that time has been lost. It was wasted by the previous regime."

did he not notice Smith play fly-half in all of Jones' last 15 matches?

I guess he might argue that the presence of Farrell hobbled Smith, but in 7 of those 15 games Smith played without Farrell and in most of those England's attack was terrible

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