Six Nations: England coach Borthwick hopeful Smith will benefit from Harlequins return

By Sports Desk February 28, 2023

England coach Steve Borthwick believes Marcus Smith will benefit from playing on his return to Harlequins after the fly-half was left out of his 26-man training squad.

Smith was omitted from Borthwick's selection ahead of England's Six Nations meeting with holders France next week.

While the 24-year-old has not been counted out of contention for that match at Twickenham on March 11, it does cast doubt on his position in the matchday squad.

However, Borthwick – who recalled George Ford – is confident game time with his club will do Smith good.

"The decision was that Marcus would benefit from game time at his club and having that match sharpness," Borthwick said.

"I'm not picking a squad for France. We're not in Test week, we're in a training camp week.

"George played for his club at the weekend, and this is an opportunity for Marcus to go and play.

"Marcus had very limited game time against Wales because of the nature of the game, so I thought this was a step forward for him.

"On a weekly basis, you're making a decision on what is the right thing for the player this week to be then ready to play for England.

"For all our players, I'm making those decisions. For some, it's to go and get game time, for others it's to be in the training camp here."

Ford has only just recovered from injury but Borthwick, who worked alongside him at Leicester Tigers, has not hesitated in getting the Sale Sharks fly-half into the fold.

"We are blessed with some fantastic fly-halves in this country," Borthwick said. "They all have different skillsets and different qualities, so that means it is a great position of strength for England.

"George is looking tremendously sharp and in great condition, and is clearly a very experienced player.

"That adds to the strength we have in that position. I am looking forward to seeing Marcus play this weekend, and when you add in Owen [Farrell] and Fin Smith – who I have been hugely impressed by – it shows [it's] a position where we are blessed to have a number of top-quality players."

Max Malins has been left out of the squad while he nurses an ankle issue, with Jonny May called up in his place.

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