England drop Farrell as Smith starts against France in Six Nations

England captain Owen Farrell has been dropped for Saturday's Six Nations match against France, with Marcus Smith selected in his place for the pivotal fly-half role.

Farrell, 31, will start on the bench, with prop forward Ellis Genge named by coach Steve Borthwick as skipper for the Twickenham clash against the reigning champions.

"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," said Borthwick.

"Marcus Smith starts at fly-half and Dave Ribbans returns to the match-day 23. Congratulations to Ellis Genge, who will captain the side for the first time."

It is the first time Farrell, a veteran of more than a hundred Tests, has been omitted from a full-strength England side since their first match of the 2015 World Cup.

Smith started at fly-half, with Farrell at inside centre, for Borthwick's first game in charge, a tournament-opening 29-23 defeat by Scotland at Twickenham last month.

But the coach restored Farrell to the No 10 shirt for the subsequent wins over Italy and Wales.

The 24-year-old Smith was released to play for club side Harlequins against Exeter last weekend and he responded with a fine attacking display while landing five out of six goal kicks.

The once-reliable Farrell has enjoyed a meagre 47 percent success rate off the tee in the opening three rounds of the Six Nations.

Smith was the only change to the England starting XV that won 20-10 away to Wales last time out.

That victory would have been more emphatic had Farrell not missed four out of six shots at goal.

Farrell follows Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs among senior players dropped by Borthwick since he replaced Eddie Jones as England coach in December.

There had been a perception that ex-lock Borthwick would favour a dour, forward-based, approach unsuited to Smith's attacking game.

But it appears that England aim to emulate tournament leaders Ireland, who played a fast-paced game when defeating France 32-19 in Dublin last month -- Les Bleus' only loss so far in this season's Championship.

France, who along with England and Scotland are on 10 points behind Grand Slam-chasing Ireland, named their side earlier on Thursday.

Powerful centre Jonathan Danty was recalled in one of three changes to the team that beat Scotland.

France have not won a Six Nations match at Twickenham since 2005.