|Venue: Twickenham Stadium Date: Saturday, 11 March Kick-off: 16:45 GMT|
|Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live; follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.|
Starting Marcus Smith ahead of captain Owen Farrell in England’s Six Nations match against France would be a “great call” by coach Steve Borthwick, says World Cup-winning former coach Sir Clive Woodward.
Farrell, who has won 104 caps, is set to drop to the bench, with 24-year-old Smith at fly-half at Twickenham on Saturday.
Woodward says Farrell, 31, has “huge respect” across the rugby world but coaches must sometimes go with their “gut instinct”.
“We’ve all dropped big players,” Woodward told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“You have got to make those calls. It’s still early days for Steve and, if you are going to make these big calls to try to find out your best starting team, you need to make them early in your career.
“I was looking forward to the game anyway, but even more so now that Smith starts at 10.”
Borthwick, who replaced Eddie Jones in December, is set to announce the team to face France at 13:30 GMT on Thursday.
“That is a really huge decision to make and one that really stamps his authority on the whole team I think,” said Woodward.
“Great for Marcus. I think he should have been the starting 10 for the last couple of years in reality – an amazing talent. But I feel really sorry for Owen Farrell. I am a big fan of Farrell.
“I think the problem with Owen is most of his England career he’s been playing in the centre. His best position is fly-half. I still think England’s best midfield has been Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade.
“This is a big opportunity for Marcus Smith. But also I think from Borthwick’s point of view, [one of the]key skills to being an international coach is selection and having the bottle to make these big calls.”
England are third in the table – five points behind leaders Ireland – and can still win the Six Nations after victories in their past two matches, but their attack has lacked fluidity.
Farrell was criticised by Woodward for kicking the ball too often in the 31-14 win over Italy, and missed four attempts at goal in the 20-10 victory against Wales.
Smith, released from the England camp last week, was player of the match as Harlequins thrashed Exeter in the Premiership at Twickenham on Saturday.
He started the opening-game defeat by Scotland, with Farrell at 12, but Ollie Lawrence looks likely to retain his spot at inside centre against France.