Steve Borthwick urges England’s Marcus Smith to hurt France with speed

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Steve Borthwick has called on Marcus Smith to turn France around on Saturday.

As revealed by the Guardian, Owen Farrell has been left out of an England XV on merit for the first time since the 2015 World Cup, with Smith preferring to inject pace against les Bleus. Borthwick was adamant he wasn’t “playing games” after releasing Smith from the England squad last week, only to have him recalled to the No. 10 jersey on Thursday, insisting he paid no heed to outside noise that swirled around the fly-half debate.

He did acknowledge that Farrell’s goalscoring problems played a part in the decision, but Smith has in fact taken the reins to exploit his strengths in a way similar to the way he so impressively demonstrated for Harlequins against Exeter last weekend.

Related: Steve Borthwick drops Owen Farrell and plays Marcus Smith against France

Ellis Genge will captain the side for the first time – Farrell will take the role immediately when he comes on – and while Borthwick claimed this is a team selection with only France in mind, Smith has the chance to mark a major milestone in England’s last competitive game at home before the World Cup.

Asked if Smith had free play in attack, Borthwick said: “The players who go onto the pitch are the ones who will make the decisions. I choose players based on the strengths they bring to the team. And one of the things I want to do here is make sure they show their strengths on the pitch in an England shirt.

“Against a team the size of France you can’t play slowly because they have such a strong defence. As soon as you make a mistake the power of their striker comes into play and the speed of their ball movement comes into play. So we We have to keep our game fast because you can’t play slow against a team like that.”

Borthwick have now suspended Ben Youngs, Manu Tuilagi and Farrell from the England side and the flanker Lewis Ludlam stressed the benefits of having a meritocratic squad in which there were “no favourites”. Borthwick added: “One thing I picked up very early on in my coaching career is that you have to be true to yourself. You cannot coach to think about other people’s opinion of what you do.

“You have to do what you believe in. I think this is the right team and the right tactical plan for this weekend’s game. There is a period when you also have to trust your instincts. This is important.

“You collect the information and then it’s your job to process it and find the quiet time, however you do it, where you think about it and understand it. That’s what I try to do.”

England team: F steward (Leicester Tigers); M. Malins (Saracen), H Slade (Exeter chiefs), Oh Lawrence (bath rugby), A Watson (Leicester Tigers); M Smith (harlequins), J van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers); E Genge (Bristol Bears, Captain), J George (Saracen), K. Sinckler (Bristol bears), M Itoje (Saracen), Oh Chessum (Leicester Tigers), L Ludlam (Northampton Saints), J Willis (Toulouse), A Dombrandt (Harlequins).

Replacements: JWalker (harlequins), M.Vunipola (Saracen), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), D Ribbons (Northampton Saints), B curry (Sell sharks), A Mitchell (Northampton Saints), Oh Farrell (Saracen), H. Arundell (London Irish).

France team: T. Ramos (Toulouse) ; D Penaud (Clermont), G Fiko (Run 92), JDanty (La Rochelle), E Dumortier (Lyon); R Ntamack (Toulouse), A dupont (Toulouse, captain); C Baile (Toulouse), J Marchand (Toulouse), D Aldegheri (Toulouse), T Flament (Toulouse), P Willemse (Montpellier), F Cross (Toulouse), C Ollivon (Toulon), G Alldritt (La Rochelle).

Replacements: P. Mauvaka (Toulouse) , R. Wardi (La Rochelle), S Falatea (Bordeaux Begles), R Taofifenua (Toulon), S Macalou (Stade Français), M Lucu (Bordeaux Begles), Y Moufana (Bordeaux Begles), M Jaminet (Toulouse).

While Eddie Jones admitted Farrell was “very unhappy” when he lost the captaincy on last summer’s tour of Australia, Borthwick said his captaincy had been “flawless” all week. “He’s been world class,” he added. “I don’t mean that just as a player, world class in all aspects of preparation this week.

“He’s a fantastic leader. I think if you were a fly on the wall this week you wouldn’t be able to tell if Owen started at 10 or finished at 10 or 12.

France has recalled the newly fit Jonathan Danty to the center so Smith can expect heavy traffic on his channel. France are favorites for Saturday’s game but have not won at Twickenham in the Six Nations since 2005 and their head coach, Fabien Galthié, said: “It’s a temple of world rugby, where rugby was born. Even if England are not performing well, they are still part of the giants of world rugby, at the top of their league and in their difficult moments.”

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