Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith partnership not carved in stone, insists Eddie Jones

Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith partnership not carved in stone, insists Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones has insisted England are not wedded to the Marcus Smith-Owen Farrell axis.

Harlequins tyro Smith and Saracens stalwart Farrell are busy forging their 10-12 partnership this autumn, with the duo impressing in Saturday’s 52-13 demolition of Japan at Twickenham.

Jones wants the Smith-Farrell set-up to shift England into top gear, but the taskmaster head coach says England are still working on alternative inside-back combinations.

Farrell will win his 100th England cap against New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday, with Jones determined his players will meet the All Blacks challenge head-on.

Smith and Farrell will still be favourites to start at 10 and 12, but Jones could always slot Henry Slade into either inside-back berth — and he wants opponents to know that.

“Marcus and Owen can be really good together,” said Jones. “But like any strategy, it has got to keep having results. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t keep playing together, but we don’t get a team sheet and put those two names in ink that you can’t rub out.

“We need to be flexible and adaptable, and we will be. This obsession with saying these two need to be 10 and 12 is not the way we really think.”

Guy Porter and Smith claimed try braces against Japan, while Freddie Steward and Ellis Genge also crossed in a rout rounded off by a penalty try. England found their groove to atone for the 30-29 loss to Argentina, with Leicester’s Steward again showcasing his calmness and dominance under the high ball.

Steward watched England’s 19-7 World Cup 2019 semi-final win over New Zealand in a bar with his university mates. Jump forward three years and the 15-cap full-back will be facing the All Blacks for the first time this weekend.

The 21-year-old revealed the secret to his aerial mastery were psychology sessions at both Leicester and England.

“When you run out at Twickenham and have 80,000 fans around you screaming and the ball goes in the air, it’s daunting” said Steward.

“I’ve done a lot of work with the psychologist at the club and here on ignoring everything except the ball, because that’s all that matters.

“It’s trying not to think about what’s coming, the next phase, just that ball.”