Dropping Owen Farrell for Marcus Smith is a ‘great call’, says ex-England coach Clive Woodward

Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith (Andrew Matthews/Ben Whitley/PA).
Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith (Andrew Matthews/Ben Whitley/PA).

Starting Marcus Smith over England captain Owen Farrell for Saturday’s Six Nations clash with France would be a “great call”, says World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward.

Smith is set to start at fly-half for the match at Twickenham, with Farrell dropped to the bench after failing to impose himself from the No 10 role in the first two games against Italy and Wales.

Farrell has been a vital figure for England’s backline for over a decade, providing defensive solidity and a rock-solid kicking game as well as leadership and competitive spirit.

But his lack of form this spring is a concern for coach Steve Borthwick ahead of the Rugby World Cup later this year, and Smith offers an injection of flair to the midfield.

“We’ve all dropped big players,” Woodward told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “You have got to make those calls. It’s still early days for Steve and, if you are going to make these big calls to try to find out your best starting team, you need to make them early in your career.

“I was looking forward to the game anyway, but even more so now that Smith starts at 10.”

England are third in the table, five points behind leaders Ireland, and must win their final three games to have a chance of claiming the Six Nations Championship.