Borthwick tells Smith to 'find form' at club level
REACTION: England coach Steve Borthwick urged Marcus Smith to prove his worth at club level, after omitting the flyhalf from a training squad on Tuesday ahead of next week’s Six Nations clash at home to France.
Smith began the Championship as England’s starting flyhalf in a 23-29 loss to Scotland, before being dropped to the bench – with captain Owen Farrell wearing the No.10 shirt for the wins over Italy and Wales.
Smith, 24, was the only member of England’s match-day 23 that enjoyed a 20-10 success in Cardiff on Saturday to be left out of a 26-man squad for this week’s three-day training camp in Brighton, with wing Max Malins unavailable following an ankle injury.
Borthwick, however, has included Sale flyhalf George Ford, a veteran of 81 England caps, in the Brighton group.
But he insisted gifted playmaker Smith could yet feature against France at Twickenham on March 11 were he to shine for Harlequins in their Premiership match at home to Exeter this coming Saturday (March 4).
“The decision was that Marcus would benefit from game time at his club and having that match sharpness,” Borthwick told reporters on Tuesday.
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‘Not picking France squad’
“I’m not picking a squad for France. We’re not in Test week, we’re in a training camp week.
“George played for his club at the weekend and this is an opportunity for Marcus to go and play.”
Smith was only on the field for the closing 14 seconds at the Principality Stadium as England made it two wins out of three since Borthwick succeeded the sacked Eddie Jones as head coach.
“Marcus had very limited game time against Wales because of the nature of the game, so I thought this was a step forward for him,” said Borthwick.
The former England captain added: “On a weekly basis you’re making a decision on what is the right thing for the player this week to be then ready to play for England.”
Even so, Ford could now make his first England appearance since last year’s Six Nations and a first start since 2021.
Ford fell out of England favour under Jones and then injured his Achilles in last year’s Premiership final when playing for Leicester.
The 29-year-old has only recently made a comeback for Sale which amounts to 151 minutes of action across three appearances for the northwest side.
Ford had one of his best seasons under Borthwick before the Leicester supremo left Welford Road to replace Australian mentor Jones as England coach in December.
“George is looking tremendously sharp, ” Borthwick said Tuesday.
“That shows the work he’s done in terms of his rehab to recover from injury.
“He’s looking in great condition and he’s clearly a very experienced player, so that adds to the strength we have in that position.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Marcus playing this weekend. When you add in Owen, and Fin Smith, who has been in camp and who I’ve been hugely impressed by, it shows we’re blessed to have a number of top-quality players.”