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Six Nations: Steve Borthwick points to track record of bold calls after dropping captain Owen Farrell

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Steve Borthwick insists making selection calls as bold as starting Marcus Smith at fly-half at captain Owen Farrell’s expense is nothing new in his coaching career.

New boss Borthwick has made the strongest selection decision of his nascent England tenure yet, by starting Smith at No10 against France in Saturday’s Six Nations clash at Twickenham.

Ellis Genge will captain England for the first time this weekend, though Borthwick insisted Farrell will take over as skipper when he joins the fray from the bench.

Borthwick remains sanguine about his decision to leave Farrell on the bench, with the 104-cap playmaker taking a replacement’s role for England for the first time since the 2015 World Cup.

Pressed on the magnitude of the decision, head coach Borthwick remained adamant he would always select for the individual match challenge, referring back to several big calls in his time at Leicester.

Borthwick left form scrum-half Jack Van Poortvliet out of Leicester’s match 23 for last term’s Premiership final, and the Tigers prevailed 15-12 with Richard Wigglesworth and Ben Youngs both featuring at half-back.

So when Borthwick opted to select Smith from the off and sit Farrell on the bench, the 43-year-old was far less animated than outside observers.

“If you were to track all the teams I've selected there have been some pretty bold decisions,” said Borthwick. “I'll leave you to track back to last year's finals and the selections I've made.

“I've tried to pick the right team for this game, I don't consider how it will be perceived by the outside. The players and supporters deserve that because every game matters for England. I believe this is the right team given all the considerations.”

Farrell has driven England in the week and will continue his spiritual leadership role across the weekend.

Bristol prop Genge will bring fire, fury and focus as captain though, harking back to Le Crunch clashes of the amateur yesteryear in what will doubtless excite the supporters.

Borthwick also hailed Farrell for his reaction to being moved to the bench, in what now proves an even more intriguing Test match on Saturday.

“I can't praise Owen enough, not just for this week, but every day since we've started working together in this capacity,” said Borthwick. “Owen's been an incredible trainer and an incredible help to all the players in the squad.

“He cares so deeply about this team. Owen is a player who has incredible respect from everybody attached to the England rugby team. Owen leads this team fantastically well, whatever role he is playing.

“Ellis Genge is a fantastic leader, a natural leader and I think he’s somebody the players follow. To have Ellis and Owen, they are two brilliant men that these players get behind.

“I take every selection decision incredibly seriously. The players deserve that, our supporters deserve that and I want to make the best decisions in terms of that selection process.

“We’ve got many good players, and I’ve said this right from the start – we want players always fighting to be in this 23. My job is to select who is the right person to start and who is the right person to come off the bench.”