Clive Woodward has called for England captain Owen Farrell to be dropped to allow Marcus Smith to start in all three of his country’s tests next month.
Former England head coach Woodward is one of many rugby pundits calling for Smith to start at fly-half for England this November, but Farrell looks likely to remain his place in the starting team after Eddie Jones called his captain the “best man for the job”.
Of course both Smith and Farrell could start, as the latter often plays at outside centre for his country, but Woodward believes this would be a poor decision on Jones’ behalf.
Woodward was writing in his column for the Daily Mail and called on Jones to start Smith at fly-half, without Farrell outside of him in the 12 jersey.
Clive Woodward on Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith.
“If Smith gets the nod, Farrell must go on the bench. England need a fit Manu Tuilagi — or someone with his qualities — playing 12. England must find a 10-12-13 combination that is going to frighten the world,” Woodward wrote.
“I don’t think Smith and Farrell together will worry those teams who have kicked on since Japan 2019. Smith (or Farrell) at 10, Manu at 12 and Henry Slade at 13 is as good as anything out there — all playing in their best positions.
“Playing George Ford and Farrell together hasn’t worked, including in the World Cup final, and Eddie will be making the same mistake if he opts for a Smith/Farrell combination.
“Give the three autumn games to Smith and then bring back Farrell at 10 in the Six Nations if Smith has not lived up to his potential.”
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 18, 2021
Eddie Jones’ options at 10, 12 and 13.
While Woodward may not want both Smith and Farrell to start for England this November, the possibility of that happening in at least one of next month’s tests is very likely.
Jones has often selected Farrell alongside George Ford during his time as head coach, and it’s certainly not unrealistic to think that he will replace Ford with Smith, who could benefit by starting alongside an experienced international fly-half.
Manu Tuilagi is well capable of playing at outside centre, having performed brilliantly there against New Zealand at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, while he could easily slot into inside centre if one of Smith for Farrell comes off.
While Henry Slade would miss out on a starting place in the aforementioned combination, he would be a valuable option off the bench, and could be introduced at any time if a Smith-Farrell axis fails to fire.