Marcus Smith, George Ford or Fin Smith? England want three-man fight for No10 shirt

England hope Marcus Smith’s impending return to fitness will set up a genuine three-man fight for the No10 shirt.

Smith is expected to win his fitness race in time for next weekend’s Six Nations clash with Ireland at Twickenham. The 24-year-old’s craved return would then tee up a compelling tussle to start at fly-half with both George Ford and new boy Fin Smith.

The Harlequins star suffered a calf problem on the eve of the Six Nations, during England's pre-championship training camp in Spain. It was initially feared that he could miss the entire tournament, but Smith has remained with the England camp for his rehab and grafted hard towards the earliest possible return.

The livewire playmaker looks to be winning that fight and should have the chance to prove his fitness in full training early next week. If able train fully on Tuesday, then he will be in the mix for selection to take on an Ireland side bidding to become the first team to register successive Grand Slams in the Six Nations era.

Marcus Smith and Fin Smith at training this week (Getty Images)
Marcus Smith and Fin Smith at training this week (Getty Images)

Attack coach Richard Wigglesworth now believes England can look forward to all three fly-halves holding a genuine chance of winning the starting shirt.

“All three are obviously at different stages, with Marcus coming back, George having started games and Fin having come off the bench to experience his first Tests,” said Wigglesworth.

“In the weeks building up to the championship, we knew that we had got good players albeit different styles of players competing for that slot. We all know about Marcus’ abilities and he’s working really hard to get back fit as quickly as possible.

“George has been leading that line, and in Fin, he’s really impressed in training. He has played so well for Northampton but also trained really well too. Fin is incredibly astute for a young man, he’s very opinionated, but in a really good way. He already thinks about the game like a proper fly-half.”

Head coach Borthwick led candid and forthright reviews in York on Wednesday and Thursday, digging into the reasons for last weekend’s 30-21 defeat in Scotland.

England ceded possession an alarming 22 times in that Murrayfield loss, and must now face the daunting challenges of hosting Ireland and travelling to France to complete the tournament.

George Ford against Scotland (Getty Images)
George Ford against Scotland (Getty Images)

While England were fully ready for complete honesty and bluntness in their bid for widespread improvement, Wigglesworth insisted the days of ranting and raving are long gone.

“Anyone who knows me will know I can be pretty straight and to the point,” said the former Saracens scrum-half. “But I think you have a very limited lifespan if you are going to stand and bang things and call things out. Shouting and having a go, that’s right back at the coach. We’ll be in this together and make sure we’re better.”

Wigglesworth revealed the England coaching staff’s view that ruling by fear would only lead to their players freezing under pressure.

“The thing with attack is you have to be able to hold onto the ball, carry, do the contact skills incredibly well which is incredibly physical,” he said. “But then there's this freedom part where, how do you see and feel space, have connections to get your arms free and draw a defender out?

“There are these little nuances which are definitely not all under one umbrella of 'do this, do that'. That is a thing of the past.”