England confirm Marcus Smith recall for France Six Nations clash as Owen Farrell dropped
England coach Steve Borthwick’s major selection call to start Marcus Smith ahead of captain Owen Farrell against France in the Six Nations has been confirmed.
Harlequins tyro Smith will lead England’s backline, with squad captain Farrell taking a seat on the bench. Bristol prop Ellis Genge will skipper his country for the first time, having received strong backing from the new boss.
Saracens talisman Farrell will take a seat on England’s bench for the first time since the 2015 World Cup, in a bold call from Borthwick. England want to attack France at pace, with Smith backed to turbo charge the Red Rose game.
Smith slotting in alongside centres Ollie Lawrence and Henry Slade appears to offer impressive balance, with Borthwick resisting the temptation to start Farrell at inside centre.
“The players selected to face our visitors are again a reflection of what I see to be the right balance of personnel for the challenge we face in this game,” said Borthwick. “Marcus Smith starts at fly-half and Dave Ribbans returns to the matchday 23.
“Congratulations to Ellis Genge who will captain the side for the first time. Ellis will lead from the front with the sort of dedication and spirit that now rightly typifies this England team.”
England have made just one change from their 20-10 win in Wales to take on France, in Smith starting ahead of Farrell. Ribbans takes a seat on the bench, with Courtney Lawes missing due to a shoulder injury.
Fabien Galthie’s France have powered to second place in the world rankings, leaving Borthwick expecting a major test this weekend.
Les Bleus have recalled powerful centre Jonathan Danty to their midfield in place of Yoram Moefana, while in the pack Francois Cros and Dorian Aldegheri replace Anthony Jelonch and the suspended Mohamed Haouas. Replacement fly-half Matthieu Jalibert is also injured, so Melvyn Jaminet earns a promotion to the bench.
“Over the last three years France have built a formidable side,” said Borthwick.
“With just three games behind us, this England team has an excellent opportunity to test itself against one of the very best teams in the world, as we progress and build on the foundations we have put in place in the short time we have been together.”
England team to face France
F Steward; M Malins, H Slade, O Lawrence, A Watson; M Smith, J Van Poortvliet; E Genge (c), J George, K Sinckler; M Itoje, O Chessum; L Ludlam, J Willis, A Dombrandt.
Replacements: J Walker, M Vunipola, D Cole, D Ribbans, B Curry, A Mitchell, O Farrell, H Arundell.