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Why an ex-England 10 won't take issue with token Smith cap in Wales

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

Former England international Andy Goode has explained why there should be no criticism of the token cap given to Marcus Smith versus Wales last Saturday. The round three Guinness Six Nations match was already in the 80th minute when Steve Borthwick threw Smith, Henry Arundell and Jack Walker into the fray for the last play of a match where the 20-10 result had been decided.


The full-time whistle quickly blew after play restarted with a scrum as England knocked the ball on when they attempted to move it wide to the right of the set-piece and it meant that Smith and co headed back to the sidelines without having broken a sweat.

There was much debate in the aftermath as why Borthwick bothered with playing bench players for only a few seconds but ex-10 Goode was all for it as his Test career – during which at times he was a teammate of Borthwick’s – was pockmarked by internationals where he was left stewing unused on the bench and left feeling not part of the team.

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“I’ve been there,” he said on the latest Rugby Pod, explaining that there was a positive to Smith getting on for only a few seconds at the Principality. “The one that always sticks with me, Andy Robinson was the head coach of England, absolute cowboy, we are playing Italy away, we are winning by 40 points and I was the only f***er on the bench that didn’t get on. Not even for a second.

“I was raging after the game. I reckon I have been there about 10 times where I was on the bench for England and not come on, so I would have had 10 more caps. The game is won, you empty the bench, you give them a cap.


“They’re not going to do anything because there is only a minute left but it just makes them feel part of it because I have been in a changing room where boys have had a win, and a comfortable win, and you have not got on and your kit is clean… He [Borthwick] wanted them to get on the field just to experience something. I don’t have a problem with it.”


Goode didn’t have a problem either that Borthwick kept his faith in skipper Owen Farrell despite his poor kicking off the tee keeping Wales in the contest on the scoreboard until the clinching 75h minute Ollie Lawrence try.

“People are moaning that Marcus Smith should have come on, all this stuff. The way the game was, it would have taken a ballsy call to take Owen Farrell off and bring Marcus Smith on to completely change the game. Yes, that is what England fans potentially wanted to see but I thought during the game Owen Farrell played pretty well.

“His goal kicking, listen he is a world-class goalkicker, you can’t question his ability over his career as a goal kicker. He was 33 per cent at the weekend. I think he is 56 per cent over the Six Nations, which isn’t great, so you then have to question does he deserve his place in the team if he is the sole goal kicker.

“If there was someone else in that backline that could kick goals you would have expected that to swap over during the game but Borthwick has backed himself into a corner by making Farrell captain because it makes him undroppable.


“Normally, kicking is a strength of his game and the attacking side of it is perhaps not a strength but I thought at the weekend it was the other way around – his goal kicking was poor but the way he managed the game and the way he controlled field position and setting up how England played against a poor Wales team, he played pretty well.”

While Farrell is now with England at their fallow week training camp in Brighton, Smith has been released to Harlequins in order to get some Gallagher Premiership game time this Saturday. That decision has resulted in George Ford getting called up to be the other out-half in this week’s training squad.


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