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Skipper Owen Farrell set to be dropped by England - report

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

England boss Steve Borthwick is reportedly seriously considering starting Marcus Smith in Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash with France at Twickenham and benching skipper Owen Farrell. Smith was included in the reduced 27-man squad named on Tuesday evening, seeing off the challenge of Georg Ford who took his place in last week’s training squad in Brighton.


Smith instead returned to Harlequins to start in their Big Game fixture versus Exeter and having led his side to a smashing 40-5 win, Borthwick is now considering naming him as the England No10 to face the French. That would be a massive change in thinking compared to what transpired in recent weeks.

Borthwick inherited the tactic of combining Smith at No10 with Farrell at No12 from the Eddie Jones era but he binned that selection following last month’s round one home loss to Scotland. The coach instead chose Farrell as his No10 versus Italy and Wales, restricting Smith to cameos from the bench.

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Having got less than 30 seconds as a replacement against the Welsh, there was plenty of speculation last week that the decision to omit Smith from the England training squad and send him back to Harlequins would pave the way for Ford to come into the Test match day selection.

However, the indications now are that rather than being excluded for the fixture, Smith is actually being lined up to take the No10 jersey off Farrell due to how he lit up the Harlequins attack compared to his rival’s limited creativity as the starting out-half in the Test victory over the Welsh.


Farrell has also had issues with his goal-kicking, landing just two of his six efforts at the Principality compared to Smith, who was five from six off the kicking tee in his Premiership outing at Twickenham. A report in the Telegraph ahead of Thursday’s 1:30pm team naming read: “It is understood the Harlequins fly-half is primed for a return to the starting XV in place of Owen Farrell following his man-of-the-match display for his club against Exeter Chiefs last Saturday.

“While injury issues, including a fresh set-back to Courtney Lawes, who was expected to captain the side if Farrell was rotated to the bench, forced further selection debate, it is understood that the England management have been highly impressed by Smith’s impact in training since his return from his club.


“If Smith starts, Ellis Genge, one of the two vice-captains, is likely to be handed the captaincy for England’s final competitive match at Twickenham before the World Cup in France later this year. Farrell, however, would be expected to play a significant role off the bench in attempting to manage the second half if he does not start.”


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Flankly 472 days ago

In the 2011 RWC, NZ needed 4 fly halves (Carter, Slade, Cruden and Donald) to win the title. Borthwick needs to build depth, and specifically he needs multiple fly halves with experience of his playing patterns and game plans.

To take one example of a current team, SA has depth at #10 that consists of Pollard, Willemse, Libbok and Jantjies. They have different strengths and weaknesses, but all have decent international playing time, and in the Nienaber plan.

Borthwick has given Farrell a run, and it would not be surprising for him to use the remaining internationals to give Smith (and Ford) a turn. Picking Smith to start with a Farrell insurance policy on the bench would not be idiotic.

kevin 473 days ago

If Marcus got injured, the squad needs a second option at 10 so then tried & tested George Ford comes in ... Marcus is fit, so thanks George.
Borthwick the planner is planning the next phase of England whilst ensuring tested combinations work & we still get wins, so the 10/12 combo needs to be a 10 & a 12 not the EJ era ... that's now done, we focus on getting Marcus in as his distribution - a high priority facet of a 10: into the game plan. Faz's only distribution of recent games has been from his boot or treating Ollie L like a basic crash ball 12 whereas Marcus will find him if he finds space.
Planner? Borthwick? Yes, all coaches are but he's got the nation watching his every move & he's working his thinking gradually ... it's a watch this space game by game but most of the public is too impatient it appears.

Nathan 473 days ago

Strikes me as a rumour that’s run away a bit.

Borthwick is a planner, this strikes me as not part of a plan. Why name Farrell skipper, then move in as your starting ten then only to drop him for a big game, doesn’t make sense.

Ensuring selection is constant is important to a quality team. France don’t mix and match their team selection, England shouldn’t either.

In my own opinion Smith isn’t the first choice ten. He isn’t the second. He’s the third. People rage for him to start but in truth he’s not the best game manager and that big game man of the match performance was against a non firing, no particularly performing and limp Exeter side. Not in a tight game, where you might be behind against France or Ireland.

Farrell might not fire in the same way but he can win the tight games. I have yet to see evidence that Smith can.

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Jon 1 hours ago
Buoyant England travel to New Zealand full of hope but are they walking into an All Blacks ambush?

> New head coach Scott Robertson has kept only forwards coach Jason Ryan and conditioning coach Nic Gill from the previous regime *and so there is little institutional knowledge inherent in the new team.* Shows you what the English know about sport. Isn’t just fantastic that the best rugby team, or brand, on the planet has three brothers playing together? One a bull, the other a dancer, and last a .. boxer? Looks like a boxer bless him. > But Robertson has been working to fix that issue, with senior players and coaches having been regularly meeting to work out how they will operate together both on and off the field to ensure there is strong decision-making and a deep understanding of how the team wants to play. Have they? I would suggest then it is not a case of fixing things, that is not what Razor does. Razor will evolve the relationship between player and coach into a more symbiotic relationship. This wont be a coach that shouts down at his players theyre not doing good enough. I can imagine one of the first key areas he will be implementing is the respective leadership for each coaching group. Tight five, Loosies, Halves, Centers, and Back Three, will each have their own leadership team and an agile approach to the playing group relaying what they believe is happening on the training paddock, and in games. It will be a very big step to get everyone involved, able, and thinking about contributing to that process, but I believe a very beneficial one if successful. > England may have their best chance to win in 21 years, but they may also be walking into an ambush – *about to be hit* by a young, gifted, supremely physical and athletic All Blacks team coached by a man who has made every post a winner so far in his career and has this uncanny knack of getting the best out of people. Or, by a group hurting from not getting over the line and proving to everyone they are the best in the world, full of experience and cohesion, grit and motivation. You only need to look at someone like Patrick Tuipulotu to see someone with a fire under his belly from missing out on the last RWC due to injury, and having lost to this opposition in the previous one. It will be very interesting to see how this ‘Razor’ plays it. Does he stick with the traditional and protect the time honored All Black values of commitment, or does he evolve and pick the best players to win the Rugby Championship - and by association this test series - like Akira Ioane?

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