England: Steve Borthwick provides ‘hopeful’ update on Marcus Smith

Jared Wright
England back Marcus Smith after Rugby World Cup game.

England back Marcus Smith after Rugby World Cup game.

England head coach Steve Borthwick has provided a hopeful update on fly-half Marcus Smith, who missed the opening three rounds of the Six Nations.

George Ford started England’s three fixtures in the Championship, helping them win against Italy and Wales before falling to a defeat to Scotland.

Double boost

Smith has been sidelined with a calf problem he sustained during the pre-Championship training camp but is now in contention to mark his return in the latter two matches against Ireland and France.

He could be joined by Northampton scrum-half Alex Mitchell, who started the first two games but missed the defeat to Scotland with a knee issue.

“I am very hopeful that Marcus will be available for selection for this latter part of the tournament,” Borthwick said, quoted in several national newspapers.

“We have got positive news on Alex Mitchell’s injury, we are hopeful he will feature in the latter part of this tournament – whether that’s the next game, we are not sure, but we are hopeful he will be available as well.”

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Preparations begin for Ireland

Smith and Mitchell’s returns would be a timely boost for England following Saturday’s 30-21 Calcutta Cup loss to Scotland in Edinburgh, their fourth successive defeat to the Auld Enemy.

The squad has regrouped in York for training and Borthwick is expecting a response from the squad as they head back to Twickenham to tackle Ireland, who are bidding to become the first team to win back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams.

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He said: “What’s going to be interesting to me and what I want when we debrief the players, is that after the first 20 minutes on Saturday – why did we go and play in a manner that was not the way we had played the first 20?

“What changed? What in the thought processes altered to try and do something different?

“I will only be able to understand that fully once we have talked to the players and listened to them about how it was on the grass.”

England and Ireland face off on March 9 at Twickenham, and the Red Rose complete their Six Nations campaign a week later on Super Saturday when they host France for Le Crunch.

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