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28th Feb 2023

Marcus Smith dropped from England squad as Steve Borthwick makes big calls

Charlie Herbert

Marcus Smith

Smith made a one-minute appearance against Wales at the weekend

Marcus Smith has been dropped from the England squad in favour of George Ford, who looks set to make his England return against France, next week. Manu Tuilagi and Jonny May are also back.

Ford has been selected ahead of Smith for England’s Six Nations training camp in Brighton this week. The Sale Sharks fly half hasn’t featured in an England shirt since a four-minute appearance against Les Bleus in the Six Nations last year.

Ford fell out of favour under Eddie Jones, but with the appointment of his former Leicester Tigers coach Steve Borthwick to the England job, he has returned to the fold at the earliest possible opportunity following a lengthy spell out injured. Meanwhile, it is unclear where this leaves Smith in the England picture.

Jones seemed determined to make a partnership between Smith and Owen Farrell work for England, and Borthwick started the pair together in England’s opening Six Nations defeat against Scotland.

“Reduced fallow week squad numbers, injuries and our wish for some players to have valuable game time minutes with their clubs,” explained Borthwick, “means that the squad gathered in Brighton has a slightly different feel to it.  We are very pleased to welcome back Jonny May.”

Steve Borthwick on Marcus Smith not getting much time against Wales

Following that defeat to Scotland, Marcus Smith was dropped from the starting lineup for the next game against Italy, and he got just a minute off the bench in the victory over Wales on Saturday. Speaking about the Harlequins playmaker after the game, Borthwick said:

“All the players are desperate to play. That is a testament to them. I said this a few times, we are trying to build a squad of players that is always working towards the team being at the forefront helping the team to prepare.

“Sometimes your role is to start, sometimes your role is to come off the bench, sometimes your role is to support the team as 24th and 25th man. I asked the players whatever their role is to do it with everything they can to help this team improve.”

Borthwick is a fan of Ford and his game, with the pair guiding Tigers to the Premiership title last season.

Ford’s ability to play the kick-pressure game-plan that Borthwick implements in his sides is likely to have been a key factor in the decision to retain the 29-year-old ahead of Smith.

This week is a break in the Six Nations, with Smith set to return for Harlequins for their rearranged ‘Big Game’ against Exeter, which ironically will be played at Twickenham.

Meanwhile, England’s next Six Nations clash is Le Crunch against France at the same ground on March 11.

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