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Wednesday Mar 6, 2024

Opinion: The England fly half debate

Ever since Marcus Smith’s incredible rise from promising Quins youngster through to international revelation, I’ve been waxing lyrical about the young genius.

If I were to take my place on the mastermind hot seat, would my special knowledge round really be on Marcus Smith? Probably, yes.

But…that doesn’t mean he would simply float into my England team.

In fact, I’m possibly about to surprise even myself, Marcus Smith’s biggest fan-boy, with my England fly-half selection.

The decision is not an easy one amidst a side being heavily slated for their results and playing style under a relatively new coach. But Steve Borthwick still has the confidence of the RFU, and he now has the important decisions to make moving forward.

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So let’s have a look at his options:

Do England adapt to the types of player they’re bringing through? Or do they stick with their unapologetically English power based, simple kicking game?

George Ford

If they are to stick to a pragmatic gameplan, then they need look no further than the incredibly intelligent and experienced George Ford. Now entering the latter stages of his career, the Sale Sharks fly half can control a game like no other ten in world rugby. If rugby was a game of chess, Ford would be a grand master.

A very calmly spoken chap around camp, there’s no doubt whatsoever that Ford instils a level of clarity and respect within an England circle filled with youth. A vital cog in a much changed England squad.

He needs to be in the mix.

Fin Smith

Having said all of this, what use is an understudy if they never get the chance to perform. That’s where Fin Smith comes in.

Recently compared to Ronan O’Gara after silencing the Thomond Park crowd during a Champions Cup match, Smith is already thought to boast the multitude of skills that only the very best fly halves hold. Already playing well beyond his years, it’s time to put the 21-year-old to the test.

Marcus Smith

As previously stated, I would have Marcus Smith starting in every must win game for England. There has been a lot said about his career so far, but for me his international journey is only just starting. Long term it will be a battle between the two Smiths, but for now, Marcus is the number one.

Conclusion

England need to make decision. Either look to the future or commit to the past, don’t get caught dilly-dallying in the middle.

Here’s what I would do:

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George Ford is a great bloke to have around camp and an even better player to have on the field. Except, England don’t need him on the field at the moment. England need to use these next two years experimenting with new blood and new combinations – not trying to beat teams in a competition they’ve already lost with players that have already gained almost 100 caps.

Start Fin Smith. He has bags full of potential and still has the youthful ability to react to different styles of play depending on Borthwick’s aim. Give him game time and allow him to experience all different international matches. He won’t be the finished article for quite some time, but this is the way world class tens are created.

Marcus Smith is just returning from injury and will be a perfect impact sub for his young namesake.

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