Six Nations: Smith looks at Ireland as 'free swing' for stuttering England

By Sports Desk March 14, 2023

England fly-half Marcus Smith believes they have a "free swing" at Ireland, and also thinks Steve Borthwick's side have time to find form before the Rugby World Cup.

After a chastening 53-10 defeat at Twickenham at the hands of France on Saturday – a record home defeat for them – England could be set to win just two of their five Six Nations games for the third tournament running.

Smith – who replaced Owen Farrell in the team for that game – acknowledged England are going through a bad run, but has challenged his team-mates to use it as motivation as they prepare to face an Ireland team in Dublin who can clinch a Grand Slam.

"We're in a tough period at the minute and it's perfect for us," Smith said. "We've got to get better quickly because the challenge doesn't come much greater than Ireland away in Dublin.

"There's only one way to go now and that's to stand up and fight as hard as we can and play as hard as we can for the shirt.

"We've spoken about sticking together because there's going to be a lot of noise and a lot of pressure on us. We've got to become tighter as opposed to splinter.

"This is a big test of our togetherness as a squad and of our resolve. There's no better week for this than a free swing at Ireland."

The Rugby World Cup is less than six months away, and Smith pointed to the "characters" in the team as reason for optimism ahead of the tournament in France.

"I believe we've still got time," he said. "With the characters we've got in the group we can turn things around very quickly.

"We'll look at our individual performances and team performance because, with where we want to go in the next six months and in the years ahead, that wasn't good enough."

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