Owen Farrell: England head coach Steve Borthwick explains why he opted for Marcus Smith against France
England head coach Steve Borthwick insists his decision to drop Owen Farrell was based on more than goal-kicking as he addressed the media on Thursday.
Farrell’s demotion to the bench against France this week was the main talking point from England’s team announcement ahead of Le Crunch at Twickenham.
It is the first time since 2015 that Farrell has been snubbed from England‘s 10 jersey as head coach Borthwick continues not to shy away from bold decisions.
Farrell is on bench duty
He has already overlooked Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs and now Farrell has found himself pushed down the pecking order after a difficult past two games.
“Every kicker has small dips and the great kickers always come back and improve their percentage,” Borthwick said, with Farrell’s percentage down at 47.
“I consider every aspect and you’d expect me to do that. I try to do this job as thoroughly as possible.
“Owen’s been kicking brilliantly in training this week, as has Marcus. There are wider aspects to be considered within this game and gameplan, not simply the goalkicking.
“If you were to track all the teams I’ve selected there have been some pretty bold decisions.
“I’ve tried to pick the right team for that game, I don’t consider how it will be perceived by the outside.
“Owen has been brilliant, as he always is. He trains brilliantly and he leads this team fantastically well, whatever role he’s playing.”
Borthwick though feels Smith is the right option to start against France, who he believes is better suited to unlock the reigning Six Nations champions’ defence.
Smith starts, Farrell finishes
“As I always do, I go through the gameplan we wish to play, the specific tactics we wish to play against the opponents and the strengths they have,” he said.
“Marcus will be on the field at the start of the game and Owen on the field at the end of the game. That’s what I feel is the right blend against this opponent.
“France have a big, powerful pack and they kick the ball further than anyone else kicks it.
“Fundamentally you have to deal with those two challenges because off the back of them they have pace, especially with the way Antoine Dupont plays.”
England and France are currently locked on 10 points apiece in the Six Nations standings, with Ireland out in front on 15 points with just two games to play.
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