England name Marcus Smith at fly-half as captain Owen Farrell dropped

England name Marcus Smith at fly-half as captain Owen Farrell dropped

Marcus Smith has been entrusted with the fly-half duties for England’s Guinness Six Nations clash with France after Steve Borthwick made the bombshell decision to drop captain Owen Farrell.

Farrell has been demoted to the bench for the first time since 2015 for Saturday’s Twickenham showdown with the Grand Slam champions.

Ellis Genge is named captain for the first time in place of Farrell but there are no further changes to the starting XV that toppled Wales in round three.

“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,” England head coach Borthwick said.

“Marcus Smith starts at fly-half and Dave Ribbans returns to the match day 23. Congratulations to Ellis Genge who will captain the side for the first time.”

Smith started the tournament in the number 10 jersey against Scotland but then had to settle for cameo roles off the bench against Italy and Wales, with his game time in Cardiff limited to just 14 seconds.

The 24-year-old was released to play for Harlequins last weekend and having delivered a classy man of the match display against Exeter, now finds himself given the task of launching England’s backline.

Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs – Gallagher Premiership – Twickenham Stadium
Marcus Smith impressed for Harlequins against Exeter at the weekend (Ben Whitley/PA)

Farrell’s form so far in the Six Nations has been reasonable enough, but his success ratio off the kicking tee reads an unacceptable 47 per cent.

However, Borthwick was still expected to keep faith with England’s talisman and has once again shown his ruthless streak by freezing him out of the starting XV.

Farrell follows Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs among the big names jettisoned by Borthwick since he replaced Eddie Jones as head coach in December.