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Woodward demands drastic Farrell cull if Smith starts for England

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

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Ex-England coach Clive Woodward has called for skipper Owen Farrell to be left out of Eddie Jones’ starting XV next month if rising star Marcus Smith is the starting No10. Both players were part of the 34-strong squad named on Monday for the November matches versus Tonga, Australia and South Africa.


Smith’s only two caps at Test level were won last July when Farrell was unavailable to England as he was touring South Africa with the Lions. However, the pair now feature in Jones’ latest squad announcement and Woodward has insisted Farrell must not be allowed to start at No12 if Smith is the chosen out-half.

It’s a drastic cull given how Farrell has played so much of his Test rugby under Jones at inside centre due to the inclusion of George Ford at No10. However, with Ford now out of the England picture, 2003 World Cup winner Woodward wants Jones to take things a step further by also demoting Farrell to enable Smith to perform as best he can at Test level. 

Video Spacer

The Eddie Jones England squad media briefing
Video Spacer
The Eddie Jones England squad media briefing

Writing in his latest Sportsmail column, Woodward explained: “I have been a huge Farrell supporter and still am, but as a No10, not at twelve. At his best, he is a world-class ten as opposed to a decent twelve. There is a big difference at elite level and deep down he wants No10 on his back. So now it is crunch time for head coach Eddie Jones. It’s either Smith or Farrell at ten.

“If Smith gets the nod, Farrell must go on the bench. England need a fit Manu Tuilagi – or someone with his qualities – playing twelve. England must find a 10-12-13 combination that is going to frighten the world.

“I don’t think Smith and Farrell together will worry those teams who have kicked on since Japan 2019. Smith (or Farrell) at ten, Manu at twelve and Henry Slade at 13 is as good as anything out there – all playing in their best positions.


“Playing George Ford and Farrell together hasn’t worked, including in the World Cup final, and Eddie will be making the same mistake if he opts for a Smith/Farrell combination. Give the three autumn games to Smith and then bring back Farrell at ten in the Six Nations if Smith has not lived up to his potential.”



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