England vs France: Marcus Smith set to start as Ellis Genge named captain for Six Nations showdown

Back: Marcus Smith  (Action Images via Reuters)
Back: Marcus Smith (Action Images via Reuters)

Marcus Smith is set to start at fly-half for England against France at Twickenham on Saturday, with Owen Farrell taking a seat on the bench.

Bristol prop Ellis Genge will take the captaincy with Saracens talisman Farrell among the replacements but primed to step into the fray in the closing stages.

Livewire playmaker Smith was released from the England camp last week and challenged to boss Harlequins’ Gallagher Premiership clash with Exeter.

The 24-year-old did exactly that, running the show in fine style at Twickenham as Quins thrashed the Chiefs 40-5 in a stunning six-try victory on Saturday.

Smith commanded Harlequins’ high-octane attacking approach last weekend, and will now be tasked with repeating that feat in England’s No 10 shirt.

England are expected to make just one change from their 20-10 third-round Six Nations win in Wales to face the powerful French.

Smith should therefore line up with Bath’s Ollie Lawrence and Exeter’s Henry Slade outside him.

Head coach Borthwick wants England to employ a high-tempo attacking game to stress France’s heavy, powerful side.

A replacement’s role for regular captain Farrell will be a bold move, but should not be interpreted as a changing of the guard.

Farrell can be expected to be called upon to step off the bench and steer England home in the closing exchanges.

Assistant coach Kevin Sinfield insisted earlier this week that Farrell will always lead as captain, whether he technically fills the role on a matchday or not.

“Owen will always be captain material and always play the role he does, whether he is captain or not,” said Sinfield. “Whether Owen is in the side or not, he’ll continue to be a great leader for us, I have no doubt.”

Sinfield also admitted England’s coaches have been consistently impressed with Smith’s performances, both on the field and in training.

“I thought Marcus was outstanding for Harlequins, we all did, but he has trained like that for the last six week,” said Sinfield. “We’ve all seen first-hand what he’s capable of.”