England: Marcus Smith at fly-half as captain Owen Farrell on bench for France clash

Adam Kyriacou
Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith

England head coach Steve Borthwick has dropped captain Owen Farrell and opted for Marcus Smith at fly-half for their Six Nations clash with France.

Farrell has been shifted to bench duty for the meeting this Saturday as prop Ellis Genge takes over the leadership duties for Le Crunch at Twickenham.

In a bold move, Smith will line up alongside Jack van Poortvliet in the half-backs after impressing for Harlequins in their Premiership win over Exeter.

Genge will lead England

Skipper Genge will be joined in the front-row by prop Kyle Sinckler and hooker Jamie George, with the forward pack unchanged from the win at Wales.

That means Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum continue at lock with Jack Willis and Lewis Ludlam the flankers and Alex Dombrandt starting at number eight.

Outside Smith in the backline will be in-form centre Ollie Lawrence and Henry Slade, who keeps his spot in the side despite struggling to hit his top form.

Anthony Watson is on the left wing, Max Malins is on the right wing and Freddie Steward is full-back to complete the England back three at Twickenham.

Farrell and David Ribbans are both named as replacements, alongside Jack Walker, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Ben Curry, Alex Mitchell and Henry Arundell.

Borthwick said: “We look forward to welcoming a strong France team to Twickenham this weekend in what will undoubtedly be another exciting encounter in this year’s Six Nations competition.

“Over the last three years France have built a formidable side and with just three games behind us, this England team has an excellent opportunity to test itself against one of the very best teams in the world, as we progress and build on the foundations we have put in place in the short time we have been together.

“The players selected to face our visitors are again a reflection of what I see to be the right balance of personnel for the challenge we face in this game. Marcus Smith starts at fly-half and Dave Ribbans returns to the matchday 23.

Sold-out Twickenham

“Congratulations to Ellis Genge who will captain the side for the first time. Ellis will lead from the front with the sort of dedication and spirit that now rightly typifies this England team.

“I know that a sold-out Twickenham will be in full voice, and that our magnificent supporters will make Saturday a very special occasion with a brilliant atmosphere.”

England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Max Malins, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Lawrence, 11 Anthony Watson, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Jack van Poortvliet, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Jack Willis, 6 Lewis Ludlam, 5 Ollie Chessum, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge (c)
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 David Ribbans, 20 Ben Curry, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Henry Arundell

Date: Saturday, March 11
Venue: Twickenham
Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)

READ MORE: Six Nations: Jonathan Danty returns from injury as France make three changes for Le Crunch