England: Winners and losers from the Six Nations team to face France

Jared Wright
No one is safe. Steve Borthwick has made some surprising selection calls in his team to face France on Saturday in the Six Nations, most notably Marcus Smith starting ahead of Owen Farrell.

No one is safe. Steve Borthwick has made some surprising selection calls in his team to face France on Saturday in the Six Nations, most notably Marcus Smith starting ahead of Owen Farrell.

We pick out our winners and losers from the selections made by the England head coach.


Marcus Smith rewarded for stunning showing

Big Game 14 gave Smith the perfect opportunity to impress after he was released from the England squad, and he took it with both hands.

Smith shot the lights out at Twickenham, producing a stunning performance that included five well-taken conversions out of six. That will be crucial on Saturday after Owen Farrell misfired against Wales in Round Three of the Championship.

His attacking prowess against Exeter was on full display as Smith used his entire arsenal to rip the Chiefs to shreds with the help of Danny Care.

Borthwick’s brave selection call to drop Farrell for Smith indicates that no one is safe, and if you want to start for his team, you need to be on top of your game all the time.

Captain Ellis Genge

Captaining your country will always be an honour for any player, and it is well-deserved in Ellis Genge’s case. The loosehead takes over the armband as Farrell moves to the bench.

Genge has come a long way since he was dubbed a ‘hot-headed’ player and continues to prove his doubters wrong.

The 28-year-old led Leicester Tigers to glory last season in the Premiership and has earned the respect and trust of his head coach to skipper his country.

Slade sneaks in

Most Test teams nowadays need two playmakers in the backline to effectively execute an effective attacking game plan. England are no different.

However, while many thought that this would result in the return of the Smith-Farrell or Ford-Farrell axis, Borthwick felt different.

This has led to Henry Slade retaining his starting role within the side. The Exeter Chiefs centre hasn’t been on top of his game but does fill that role as a second playmaker.

Another quiet performance, and Borthwick may pull the trigger and shuffle the midfield again.

David Ribbans 

The Northampton Saints lock has, to a large extent, taken every opportunity to impress in the Red Rose jersey since debuting last November.

However, the return of clubmate Courtney Lawes saw him drop out of the team. With Lawes ruled out of Le Crunch through injury, Ribbans gets another opportunity to shine despite Nick Isiekwe being in the squad.


Owen Farrell dropped

The England captain from the opening three games, Borthwick‘s biggest selection bomb is relegating Farrell to the bench.

The Saracens playmaker couldn’t find his radar from the tee against Wales, but the side did look sharper on attack in the two games he started at fly-half. However, his inaccuracy from the tee has cost him.

It’s a statement selection from the England boss, and it’s clear to see if you perform well enough, you will get an opportunity. Unfortunately for Farrell, Smith’s opportunity has come at his expense.

Joe Marchant misses out

While Smith forced his way back into the starting line-up through his Premiership performance last week, the same was not true for clubmate Marchant.

The centre was just as brilliant against Exeter, grabbing a brace of tries in an outstanding performance. However, more was needed to convince Borthwick, with Slade favoured in the centres and Max Malins and Anthony Watson on the wings.

If he continues to push the envelope, he is bound to get another shot. It just won’t be this weekend.

Ben Earl

It’s another week in the stands for Saracens’ star openside Ben Earl with Lewis Ludlam, Jack Willis and Ben Curry preferred in the flanker roles this week.

Earl has been given just 51 minutes to prove himself in the Six Nations this year. During that time, he made 52 metres from 10 carries and made nine out of 10 of his attempted tackles.

The competition for a spot in England’s loose trio is fierce, and unfortunately for Earl, the current holders are making the most of their opportunities.

READ MORE:  A combined England and France XV ahead of Le Crunch