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'Jones should be immediately sacked if he doesn't start him at no.10'

By Paul Smith
(Photo by Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

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Former Wales and British & Irish Lions star Shane Williams has issued England with the bluntest of assessments regarding their starting fly half for the upcoming Six Nations.

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Writing in his Rugby Paper column, the 44-year-old former World Player of the Year was fulsome in his praise for rising star Marcus Smith who won his first international caps last summer after leading Harlequins’ march to the English Premiership.

Indeed, Williams, who won 87 Wales caps in addition to four for the Lions, is so convinced that Eddie Jones should hand the reins to the 22-year-old that he described any other option – including the retention of the vastly experienced Owen Farrell – as a sackable offence.

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“If Eddie Jones doesn’t give him first shot at the England No.10 jersey in the Six Nations, then the RFU should sack him immediately,” was Williams’ summary of the situation following Smith’s impressive performance during Quins’ Heineken Champions Cup round three win over Cardiff.

“He makes things happen around him and he must be a nightmare to play against.

“Three tries came from his superb kicking game and he scored one himself as well. Is there anything he can’t do?”

Such was Williams’ enthusiasm for Smith’s skills that he made a direct comparison between the young star and Barry John – the 1960’s and 70’s legend who is so revered in Wales he is often referred to as ‘the King.’

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“What a performance, what a player. At a ground where Barry John used to strut his stuff here was a player from a similar mould as the King,” he said.

Competition for England’s no.10 shirt has rarely been more intense with Leicester’s George Ford making a compelling case for a recall to the squad with some stellar club displays.

In addition, Owen Farrell, who has regularly captained England in recent times, remains an option at fly half despite spending much of his career outside Ford in the no.12 shirt.

However, with Manu Tuilagi set to make his return from injury prior to his country’s Six Nations opener at Murrayfield and Exeter’s Henry Slade continuing the impressive form he showed during the Autumn Series, should Jones opt for Smith as his play-maker he may struggle to accommodate the Saracens star in his starting line-up.

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On this basis he will therefore also need a new captain – which may present Northampton forward Courtney Lawes with the opportunity to retain the armband he took for the first time during November.

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