France coach Fabien Galthie was well prepared for Eddie Jones' Six Nations comments
"The Marcus situation is no different from any other team in the world."
Owen Farrell (ankle) and Jonny May (knee) are both due for dates with the surgeon's blade, while Jonny Hill is "touch and go" to face Scotland. That is the bleak injury update from England boss Eddie Jones.
Given how Jones has lost his captain, a key winger and may lose an experienced lock, his form at the launch was upbeat at today's Six Nations launch.
When your squad still contains the likes of Marcus Smith, Maro Itoje, Tom Curry, Freddie Steward, Ellis Genge, Henry Slade, Sam Simmonds and Alex Dombrandt [to name just eight], one can afford to see the glass as half full.
One plan out the window for the Six Nations, now that Farrell has been ruled out for the entire championship, had been Jones playing his captain at inside centre, one out from the young man in the 10 jersey - Marcus Smith. The England coach is already contemplating a new-look midfield.
Henry Slade may shift inside
Manu Tuilagi is also out injured, so Elliot Daly has been called up as centre cover. The Saracens star has plenty of Test experience but most of it at fullback or on the wing. Saying that, his last two Test matches were at centre, but for the British & Irish Lions.
On the Farrell injury, Eddie Jones said, "It’s a massive blow for him, personally, and for the team it’s a blow.
"It’s also an opportunity for other guys to step up into leadership roles, opportunities for other players to play for that No 12 jersey. We see it more as an opportunity. In today’s rugby, having your best team on the field is a rare occurrence so we’re pretty used to it."
England met up on Tuesday so they do have well over a week to work on combinations for their midfield. Jones, today, was openly mulling the possibility of shifting Exeter's Henry Slade in a spot from his usual outside centre.
"We may move Sladey in one spot from 13 to 12.
"It's important for any 10 in the world whether it's Marcus Smith or Finn Russell or Romain Ntamack for France that the 12 is a good communicator and takes some of the pressure away from the 10 in terms of giving good information and assisting in the defence role."
England won the Six Nations, after a nine-month Covid delay, in 2020 but faltered badly when defending that crown, last year. They lost to Scotland, Wales and Ireland to finish fifth.
Wales are defending champions, England have a wealth of talent, Scotland had their record Lions representation, last summer, and Ireland are on an eight-game winning streak. Still, Jones feels France are the overwhelming favourites to win the Six Nations, and he was only too happy to go on the record about that.
"Everyone is expecting France to win, aren't they?
"You do a tally of all the journalists today and France would be right up there at the top."
France head coach Fabien Galthie could only smile as he heard of the comments from Eddie Jones.
"I am very happy with this compliment, we’re very happy and proud to be labelled as favourites," Galthie said. We are very happy to hear all those positive comments.
"It’s very rewarding, it’s rewarding for our two-year work, it’s rewarding for all the commitment of the players, the virtues of the team and their dedication on the pitch."