England captain Farrell dropped for France clash as Smith steps in at flyhalf

:England captain Owen Farrell has been dropped for their Six Nations clash against reigning champions France with coach Steve Borthwick making the bold decision to start Marcus Smith at flyhalf for the game at Twickenham on Saturday.

Farrell, who has 104 caps and has been England captain since 2019, drops to the bench with prop Ellis Genge set to lead an otherwise unchanged team that beat Wales 20-10 in Cardiff in the previous round.

Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum are at lock while the pack is completed by flankers Jack Willis and Lewis Ludlam, with Alex Dombrandt at number eight.

Jack van Poortvliet is at scrumhalf while Ollie Lawrence is at inside centre and Henry Slade slots in at outside centre.

“The players selected to face our visitors are again a reflection of what I see to be the right balance of personnel for the challenge we face in this game,” Borthwick said.

“Marcus Smith starts at flyhalf and Dave Ribbans returns to the matchday 23,” he added, dispensing with the twin playmaker role that former coach Eddie Jones had hoped would come good.

“Congratulations to Ellis Genge who will captain the side for the first time. Ellis will lead from the front with the sort of dedication and spirit that now rightly typifies this England team.”

Smith was initially released from Borthwick’s training squad last month to get game time with his Premiership side Harlequins.

The 24-year-old impressed in a 40-5 win over Exeter Chiefs last Saturday and he is set for his first England start since their opening round defeat by Scotland.

England are third in the standings after three matches, five points behind leaders Ireland who host Borthwick’s side in the final round.


15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 20 caps)

14. Max Malins (Saracens, 17 caps)

13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 54 caps)

12. Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby, 10 caps)

11. Anthony Watson (Leicester Tigers, 53 caps)

10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 20 caps)

9. Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers, 10 caps)

1. Ellis Genge (C) (Bristol Bears, 46 caps)

2. Jamie George (Saracens, 75 caps)

3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 59 caps)

4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 65 caps)

5. Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, 8 caps)

6. Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 17 caps)

7. Jack Willis (Toulouse, 8 caps)

8. Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 12 caps)


16. Jack Walker (Harlequins, 2 caps)

17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 77 caps)

18. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 98 caps)

19. David Ribbans (Northampton Saints, 3 caps)

20. Ben Curry (Sale Sharks, 3 caps)

21. Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, 3 caps)

22. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 104 caps)

23. Henry Arundell (London Irish, 5 caps)

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