"Dropped the ball" - Sir Clive Woodward slams Steve Borthwick's England XV - Ruck

“Dropped the ball” – Sir Clive Woodward slams Steve Borthwick’s England XV

Sir Clive Woodward, former England boss, asserts that Steve Borthwick’s decision not to start the in-form Fin Smith in England’s Six Nations opener against Italy is a missed opportunity.

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With the 21-year-old fly-half showcasing stunning form in the Premiership this season, Woodward believes Smith has rightfully earned the chance to start for England in Saturday’s crucial encounter against Italy.

Woodward began in his column for the Mail Online: “If England were playing France this weekend, let alone Italy, I would still have picked Fin Smith at No 10. The failure to start the Northampton man in Rome is a huge missed opportunity.

“Had he been fit, I’m sure Marcus Smith would have started at fly-half for the beginning of this year’s Six Nations and rightly so. He really does deserve his chance.

“His calf injury undoubtedly put a spanner in the works for Steve Borthwick. But when the Harlequin was ruled out, it had to be his namesake Fin to step in from the off and not George Ford who is the one who will begin the match.”

Woodward added: “There is no doubt Ford is a wonderful player. He always has been and at only 30, still has a huge amount to offer in the coming years. But the two Smiths — Marcus and Fin — can spark the sort of unpredictable, fast, and aggressive attacking game that England badly need. 

“Ford is undoubtedly the safe option. But England need to let the handbrake off. If it was a risk playing Fin Smith, I could understand the decision. But it clearly isn’t because of his stunning form in the Premiership and Champions Cup this season.”

Sir Clive Woodward’s predicted Six Nations table:

#6. Italy

#5. Wales