Marcus Smith gets nod at fly-half for England against Japan

Wed, Jun 19, 2024, 12:33 AM
by AFP
Marcus Smith will start at fly-half for England against Japan. Photo: Getty Images
Marcus Smith will start at fly-half for England against Japan. Photo: Getty Images

Marcus Smith will start at fly-half for England ahead of Fin Smith against Japan on Saturday, head coach Steve Borthwick said as he announced his side two days earlier than expected.

Borthwick caught reporters off-guard on Tuesday as he named his team to face a Japan side coached by former England head coach Eddie Jones in Tokyo.

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Harlequins playmaker Marcus Smith gets the nod to take the vacant number 10 shirt, with Owen Farrell ineligible after deciding to continue his club career in France and George Ford injured.

Up-and-coming Fin Smith impressed in Northampton's thrilling win over Bath in the Premiership final earlier this month but the 22-year-old was named among the substitutes.

Borthwick said he "sensed an even greater determination and hunger than I've ever seen" in Marcus Smith, after the 25-year-old missed out on the Premiership championship playoffs.

"In Marcus and Fin we have two brilliant players," said Borthwick.

"It's an enviable position to be in, to have players of that ability.

"Marcus has been in camp since we assembled and he's done really well and brings a lot of experience."

Borthwick handed a first Test start to loose forward Chandler Cunningham-South in a starting XV that contained four changes from England's 33-31 loss to France in the Six Nations in March.

Tom Curry, who has not featured for England since last year's World Cup after undergoing hip surgery, was named on the bench.

- Jones reunion -

It was Marcus Smith's inclusion ahead of namesake Fin that drew the most discussion, with Borthwick saying he felt "very privileged" to have both players at his disposal.

"I focused on a team that I think is the right team for this weekend, with all the context," he said.

"I think Marcus has done really well throughout our preparation camps and it provides continuity from the latter part of the Six Nations.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing Marcus and Fin grow even more as top-class international fly-halves over the next period of time."

Borthwick said he was relishing the chance to face Jones, who is leading Japan for the first time since returning to the job at the start of the year.

Borthwick was an assistant under Jones during his first stint in charge of Japan from 2012-2015 and also coached under the Australian in the England set-up.

"Everybody knows the quality of Eddie as a coach," said Borthwick.

"He's incredibly well respected for all the good things he did for English rugby.

"We expect a really skilful, talented, well-organised Japan team on Saturday."

England (15-1): George Furbank; Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Henry Slade, Ollie Lawrence, Tommy Freeman; Marcus Smith, Alex Mitchell; Ben Earl, Sam Underhill, Chandler Cunningham-South; George Martin, Maro Itoje; Dan Cole, Jamie George, Bevan Rodd

Replacements: Theo Dan, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Tom Curry, Harry Randall, Fin Smith, Tom Roebuck

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