Dan Biggar calls on Steve Borthwick to make brave choice with fly-half role for All Blacks series

David Skippers
Dan Biggar pic with Fin and Marcus Smith.jpg

Former Wales fly-half Dan Biggar believes Fin Smith and Marcus Smith are the frontrunners to start at fly-half for England against New Zealand.

Toulon and former Wales fly-half Dan Biggar has given his verdict on who should wear the number 10 jersey for England during their upcoming mid-year Tests against the All Blacks.

The Red Rose are heading to New Zealand to play a two-Test series against the All Blacks with matches scheduled to take place at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on July 6 and at Eden Park in Auckland a week later.

With Saracens and former England captain Owen Farrell no longer eligible for Test selection due to his impending move to Top 14 outfit Racing 92, the likes of Harlequins’ Marcus Smith and Northampton Saints’ Fin Smith – as well as George Ford of Sale Sharks – are expected to be involved in a battle for England’s number 10 shirt.

George Ford not out of the picture

While Ford is expected to be in the selection mix, Biggar feels England head coach Steve Borthwick will have to choose between the two Smiths when he decides who will be his fly-half to face the All Blacks.

“Does he throw Fin Smith in at the deep end in a Test series in New Zealand? Or does he go for someone like Marcus, who’s got a little bit more experience at that level and hope that they complement each other really well,” he told The Rugby Pod.

“For me, at this moment in time, they’re both playing in successful club teams, they’re both so confident, I don’t think it matters who plays 10 for England at the minute.

“They complement each other really well, a bit like Owen and George did back in their prime.

“If it was up to me, I would probably stick with Fin at the minute. I would give him an opportunity to go and showcase his talent against the best in the world in one of the most difficult places to go and win rugby matches.

“With Marcus’ ability to come off the bench, read the game, to challenge defences when they’re a little more tired, as well as his ability to cover full-back as well.”

Biggar, who made 116 international appearances – 112 for Wales and four for the British & Irish Lions – between 2008 and 2023 before retiring from Test rugby after last year’s Rugby World Cup in France, believes Fin Smith’s superior game management puts him in a good position to start at fly-half in the first Test in Dunedin.

“If you look at both the pros and cons for Marcus and Fin, Fin’s ability to manage a game is probably slightly ahead of Marcus’ in how structured Northampton play,” he said.

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“He’s getting more practice at being in those positions, in those tight games where it’s perhaps not so harum-scarum and as loose as when Quins play.

“For me, Fin’s ability to bring people into play is a huge, huge part. You look at Owen and George in the way that England have played over the last 10 years, it’s not been so much their individual ability but their ability to bring people into play.

“Your Vunipolas, your Manu Tuilagis, get the best of those guys, and that’s what Fin’s doing at the minute.

“For me, Fin’s game-management is probably slightly ahead of Marcus’ at this moment, even though Marcus has dramatically improved in that area.”

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Despite that, the 34-year-old expects Marcus Smith and his outstanding skill-set to still be involved for England in the series in some capacity, especially when matches go down to the wire.

“If you’re looking at someone who’s going to produce moments of magic, moments of brilliance, potentially win you games in a tight game, you look at someone like Marcus Smith and you won’t go far wrong,” said Biggar.

“His ability to see space, his ability to beat defenders, his ability to move the game around and challenge defences all over the park is something very, very special.”

Game-plan a determining factor

Biggar also believes that the game-plan which Borthwick will employ against the All Blacks will be a big determining factor in who will wear the Red Rose’s number 10 jersey.

“How do they play? How do they want to play? The way that they played during the World Cup, you would suggest that someone like a Fin Smith character would be better suited in terms of being really organised, disciplined, kicking game improving, challenging the line,” he added.

“But the way that they played in the last couple of Six Nations games, you would have to say that someone like Marcus comes into play with his amazing footwork, amazing speed and amazing box of tricks.”

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