Former England head coach Eddie Jones, speaking on the William Hill podcast “Up Front with Simon Jordan,” expressed his belief that Owen Farrell’s unemotional and steadfast demeanor continues to be undervalued.
“Marcus Smith is reasonably good at club level but the media make him out to be a superstar,” said Ones.
“He is not a superstar yet, he’s a promising young player. If you look at someone like Richie Mo’unga from New Zealand, he’s 29 now, he’s played 60 or so Tests and he’s an instinctive player. At Test match level, these instinctive players, particularly when they are in high decision-making positions, take time to mature.
“I think we will see over the next two years whether or not Marcus Smith has what it takes to go as far as his potential suggests he can.
“If he can stick at it for the next two years, he will get through it and these will be the most formative years of his rugby life if he can stick at it and not end up going to play overseas.
“If he keeps playing for England, then Owen Farrell will be coming to the latter stages of his career, so there will be an opportunity for him to step up and he can be a really, really good Test player.”
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RUCK’s 2025 England Six Nations squad:
15. Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
14. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers)
11. Anthony Watson (Leicester Tigers)
One of the areas of the most contention throughout the Rugby World Cup, Borthwick’s phasing of Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith into fullback has divided opinions amongst England supporters. The dynamic playmaker was a flying addition in the walkover win against Chile, but was left beaten and bruised by the far more physical Fijians.
We expect Borthwick to persevere with his ‘Smith-Fullback’ project, and slot the ever-reliable Freddie Steward to the right wing, as he did against Argentina in the Third-Place Play-Off. Steward adapted well to his position out wide, where he has previously shone at for Leicester Tigers. As for the left wing, we can see Borthwick calling upon Anthony Watson for a return to England duty, with Jonny May’s international career seemingly over.
Watson was initially named in Borthwick’s squad for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, yet pulled out of the entire tournament after sustaining a calf injury during the Summer. May’s inclusion came late on, and now with the Gloucester man all but retired internationally, the door is back open for Borthwick’s former Leicester man Watson. As exciting as it would be to see Henry Arundell back in the starting side, we expect the Racing 92 man to take a seat on the bench in the early Six Nations matches.
Arundell had an underwhelming end to his Rugby World Cup campaign, as he barely saw the ball in the bronze medal match against Argentina. Arundell may well have to prove himself to Borthwick once again, despite having won the hearts and minds of the Twickenham faithful with exhilarating performances for London Irish. Despite being off to ply his trade in the French Top 14, Arundell remains eligible for the 2024 Six Nations, and should at least make Borthwick’s match-day 23.
13. Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby)
12. Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks)
A relatively new partnership on the international scene, the midfield axis of Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence looks like Borthwick’s best option for the 2024 Six Nations. This comes after Joe Marchant’s exit to Stade Francais, in a move that has ended the centre’s nine-year run at Harlequins. Marchant was a pivotal player for England during the Rugby World Cup, yet missed the plane home in favour of staying in Paris for the foreseeable future.
Marchant is now ineligible to play for England, yet has been vocal on his ambitions to wear the red rose later down the line. Marchant’s circumstances differ to the case of Henry Arundell, as Marchant volentarily moved from Quins to France, whilst Arundell was left unemployed following the financial collapse of London Irish. So, we expect the partnership of Tuilagi and Lawrence to lead the England midfield for the time being. After putting pressure on Tuilangi for his starting spot in the 2023 Six Nations, Lawrence will now likely line-up alongside the Sale Sharks man.
In depth, Borthwick has previously expressed an interest in Northampton’s Guy Porter, as the Saints man was included in the wider-training squad for the Rugby World Cup. Exeter Chiefs’ Henry Slade could also make a push to return to the England fold, after being cut by Borthwick for the 33-man World Cup squad. Expect plenty of powerful crash ball carries with this midfield duo, that last had a 29 minute run out together in the world cup quarter-final, against Fiji.