Genge takes England captaincy as Farrell replaced by Smith for France clash


For England’s clash with France in the fourth round of the Guinness Six Nations, Steve Borthwick has dropped his captain, Owen Farrell, from the starting fly-half slot in favour of Marcus Smith.

It is the first time that Farrell will not have started for England when fit since the team’s 2015 Rugby World Cup opener against Fiji. 

With 104 caps, Farrell has been a mainstay under Borthwick so far throughout his tenure as head coach and started as the leading playmaker as England picked up wins over Italy and Wales.

Replacing Farrell at fly-half is Marcus Smith, the 24-year-old just over a week removed from being released from the England squad to play for Harlequins in Big Game 14, with Borthwick citing Smith’s need for game time after minimal time off the bench.

Smith starred in Harlequins’ 40-5 win over Exeter Chiefs at Twickenham Stadium and is set to pull the strings at the same venue for England this Saturday afternoon as England look to make ground on Ireland in the championship.

“Over the last three years France have built a formidable side and with just three games behind us,” Borthwick said. 

“This England team has an excellent opportunity to test itself against one of the very best teams in the world, as we progress and build on the foundations we have put in place in the short time we have been together.

“The players selected to face our visitors are again a reflection of what I see to be the right balance of personnel for the challenge we face in this game.  Marcus Smith starts at fly-half and Dave Ribbans returns to the match day 23.

As part of this reshuffle, Ellis Genge is named as England captain for the first time. The loosehead prop was Borthwick’s skipper at Leicester Tigers last year as the East Midlanders won the Gallagher Premiership.

“Congratulations to Ellis Genge who will captain the side for the first time,” Borthwick said of his captain for this weekend.  

“Ellis will lead from the front with the sort of dedication and spirit that now rightly typifies this England team.”

Elsewhere, the England starting side is unchanged. Freddie Steward, Max Malins and Anthony Watson will rekindle their back three connection which fared well against Wales, with Henry Slade and Ollie Lawrence continuing their combination in midfield.

Jack van Poortvliet continues at scrum-half, and there is an unchanged back-row of Lewis Ludlam, Jack Willis and Alex Dombrandt. Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum are the second-row partnership, while Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler maintain starting spots.

Toulon-bound David Ribbans is the replacement lock forward, while Ben Curry is the replacement back-row. Jack Walker, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Alex Mitchell and Henry Arundell complete the replacements.

England XV

Freddie Steward; Max Malins, Henry Slade, Ollie Lawrence, Anthony Watson; Marcus Smith, Jack van Poortvliet; Ellis Genge (C), Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Ollie Chessum, Lewis Ludlam, Jack Willis & Alex Dombrandt


Jack Walker, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, David Ribbans, Ben Curry, Alex Mitchell, Owen Farrell & Henry Arundell