England: Eddie Jones claims that the RFU ‘influenced’ Steve Borthwick into selecting ‘out of form’ Marcus Smith
Eddie Jones has made a startling claim about Marcus Smith and England, with the Wallabies head coach stating that Steve Borthwick was pressured into selecting the Harlequins flyhalf.
Jones handed Smith his Test debut in 2021 and started the flyhalf for most of his final year in charge of England in 2022.
Owen Farrell v Marcus Smith
Borthwick took charge of the side following Jones’ sacking late last year and led the Red Rose to a fourth-place in his first Six Nations.
The former Leicester Tigers head coach named Owen Farrell as his captain for the campaign and in his opening game against Scotland, Smith started at flyhalf with Farrell at inside centre.
However, after falling to a defeat at the hands for the Scots, Borthwick reacted by dropping Smith and backing Farrell as his starting flyhalf against Italy and Wales.
Smith returned to Harlequins during the second fallow week and produced a resounding performance against Exeter Chiefs, prompting a start the following week against France.
The change did not turn the tide for England, as they fell to a record defeat at home to Les Bleus.
Speaking on his podcast Eddie, the Wallabies’ head coach, commented on the hotly debated position in the England squad.
“The selection of Marcus, to me, that’s always the political selection,” Jones said.
“A player has been out of form, hasn’t quite done well at Test level, and then he plays one or two club games, and he’s a hero.
“The media starts banging on the door – ‘you’ve got to pick him’ – and then the board reacts to that, and ask: ‘Why aren’t you picking him?’ When you’re a young coach at the start of your career, you can get influenced by that.
“I really felt for Marcus in that game [against France]. The thing you’ve got in England is the intenseness of the media, which then affects the board, and they start to step in, and that’s when you get problems. Allow the coach to coach.”
“The board have a strategic role, but because they feel the pressure, they try to get involved in the operational side, and that’s when things get worse.
“Unless you have strong people around the team, that can be a difficulty.”
An RFU spokesperson denied the claims that the board stepped into force Borthwick’s hand.
“Team selection is entirely Steve’s decision as England head coach,” they told the Daily Telegraph.
Farrell started England’s final game of the tournament against Ireland at flyhalf, with Borthwick’s side suffering a 29-16 defeat to the Grand Slam winners.
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