England: Steve Borthwick explains why Marcus Smith has been sent back to Harlequins
England head coach Steve Borthwick has explained his decision to axe Marcus Smith from his training squad for a three-day camp at Brighton College.
Since starting and playing a full game against Scotland in the Six Nations opener, Smith has been given just nine minutes over the following two matches.
The move not to utilise Smith‘s talents from the bench has caused a good deal of controversy among England fans, and Tuesday’s news will only add to that.
Smith sent back to Harlequins
The mercurial number 10 has been allowed to return to his club outfit Harlequins and is set for action in their Premiership clash with Exeter on Saturday.
Instead, Borthwick has chosen to retain George Ford in his training squad, which hints that the Sale Sharks fly-half could play against France next week.
Despite the obvious noise surrounding the call, the England coach has played down his decision and believes Smith will benefit from a Quins run out.
“The decision was that Marcus would benefit from game time at his club and having that match sharpness,” he said when pressed on Smith’s absence.
“I’m not picking a squad for France. We’re not in Test week; we’re in a training camp week.
“George played for his club at the weekend, and this is an opportunity for Marcus to go and play.
“Marcus had very limited game time against Wales (14 seconds) because of the nature of the game, so I thought this was a step forward for him.
“On a weekly basis, you’re making a decision on what is the right thing for the player this week to be then ready to play for England.
“For all our players, I’m making those decisions. For some, it’s to go and get game time; for others it’s to be in the training camp here.”
Ford back playing after injury
If Ford were to feature against Les Bleus, he would add to his 81 Test caps in what would be his first action for England since last year’s Six Nations.
The former Leicester player has recently made his return from an Achilles injury but was a favourite of Borthwick during his time coaching the Tigers.
“George is looking tremendously sharp. That shows the work he’s done in terms of his rehab to recover from injury,” he said of the reliable fly-half.
“He’s looking in great condition, and he’s clearly a very experienced player, so that adds to the strength we have in that position.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Marcus playing this weekend. When you add in Owen, and Fin Smith, who has been in camp and who I’ve been hugely impressed by, it shows we’re blessed to have a number of top-quality players.”
READ MORE: England: Marcus Smith left out of squad as George Ford retained with Six Nations focus shifting to France
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