Six Nations: Playmaker boost for England as attack coach departs
NEWS: Marcus Smith is set to give new England coach Steve Borthwick a boost with a timely return to action ahead of the Six Nations Championship.
Flyhalf Smith has been on the sidelines since suffering an ankle injury in England’s defeat by world champions South Africa in their last match of 2022.
But the 23-year-old has been included in Harlequins’ starting XV for the Champions Cup tie against Racing 92 in Paris on Sunday – just three weeks before England launch their Six Nations campaign against Scotland on February 4.
Smith’s comeback has coincided with the suspension of fellow England flyhalf Owen Farrell, with George Ford – another contender for the No 10 shirt – still to play this season following an Achilles tendon injury.
England loose forward Courtney Lawes will make his first start since late September when Northampton face Munster in the Champions Cup on Saturday.
The 33-year-old forward was troubled by concussion earlier this season and missed all of England’s November internationals.
Meanwhile, the Rugby Football Union said later Friday that attack coach Martin Gleeson was no longer a member of England’s backroom staff.
The RFU had announced last week that current Harlequins attack coach Nick Evans, a former New Zealand flyhalf and a mentor to Smith, has been recruited on a short-term contract for the Six Nations.
But they said nothing at the time about what this meant for Gleeson, who joined the England set-up ahead of the 2021/22 season.
Gleeson’s exit was duly confirmed Friday, with RFU executive director of performance rugby Conor O’Shea saying: “We would like to thank Martin for his contribution and hard work at England Rugby, and we wish him the very best for the future.”
Former England captain Borthwick, who has succeeded the sacked Eddie Jones, is set to name his initial squad for the Six Nations on Monday.