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Marcus Smith set to be dropped by England - reports

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

Media reports in England have claimed that Marcus Smith will be dropped by Steve Borthwick for this Sunday’s Guinness Six Nations game versus Italy, with skipper Owen Farrell set to be given the No10 jersey. The English are due to officially confirm their XV at 3pm but the morning newspapers have suggested Smith will be sacrificed in a bid to solve the stuttering 10/12/13 combination.


It was November 2021 when then-boss Eddie Jones first experimented with Smith being named as the No10 and Farrell occupying the No12 channel outside him. That pairing was initially short-lived as Farrell was soon injured. However, following his return to fitness, he was paired with Smith again for all three Test games on tour in Australia, a July 2022 series that England won 2-1, and they also started all four Autumn Nations Series matches together, a block of fixtures where just a single game was won.

That fall-off in results led to the December dismissal of Jones but rather than tackle the riddle of Smith/Farrell partnership not working out as it was hoped, new head coach Borthwick last week opted to give the combination its eighth England start together with Joe Marchant named at No13 and Manu Tuilagi dropped.

Video Spacer

Finn Russell – Calcutta Cup hero on his words with Owen Farrell | England v Scotland | Offload Ep 63

Video Spacer

Finn Russell – Calcutta Cup hero on his words with Owen Farrell | England v Scotland | Offload Ep 63

With Harlequins attack coach Nick Evans – Smith’s club coach – now on the English management ticket for the Six Nations, Smith and Farrell gelled better against Scotland and the team appeared to have more tries in it than the three that it scored.

However, with the opening round match lost 23-29, further criticism regarding the gambit in starting both Smith and Farrell ignited and it is now believed that Borthwick will end the two-10s-starting experiment against the Azzurri, with Farrell set to wear the No10 and Smith providing cover from the bench.


Numerous media outlets have reported this decision will be confirmed later on Friday. Alex Spink in The Mirror, for instance, wrote: “Marcus Smith is set to be dropped to the bench to make way for Farrell at fly-half against Italy – with Henry Slade and Ollie Lawrence combining in the centres.

“Farrell is expected to revert to fly-half for the first time since Smith burst onto the international scene in July 2021, with specialist centres Slade and Lawrence combining in midfield.


“Borthwick had been urged by a number of Red Rose luminaries to play either Farrell or Smith, but not both. He would appear to have heeded those calls from Clive Woodward, Lawrence Dallaglio and Stuart Barnes, with Smith set to be deployed off the bench at Twickenham.”

The other big selection that has been predicted is a start for Jack Willis. The Toulouse flanker suffered a serious injury just minutes after scoring against Italy as a sub in the February 2021 Six Nations fixture, his knee capitulating when crocodile-rolled at a ruck.

Last Saturday’s starting No7, Ben Curry, was excluded from the England squad when Borthwick cut the numbers from 36 to 29 ahead of this weekend’s round two game.


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Flankly 527 days ago

You pick your players for your chosen game plan, not the other way around.

Whether you play Farrell, Smith, or both, starts with what you are trying to do.

We know Eddie was trying to do something progressive and different, and that Borthwick will be more conventional. But we don't know the detail in either case.

lot 527 days ago

stupid choice of word. smith to be dropped.!!! article EJ never listened to the noise of the socalled experts. infuriated them. poor borthwick will take their advise and will never know his mind . so he inherited a team part of which he coached for 4 years and they were not good at anything.. what a clown comment. lets see how many wins he'll get..

Lucio 527 days ago

Marcus smith axed, good news for Italy...

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