Sunday, March 3, 2024

Owen Farrell is set to reclaim the No 10 shirt from Marcus Smith in England side to face Ireland

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Owen Farrell is set to reclaim England’s No 10 shirt from Marcus Smith for their final Six Nations game against Grand Slam-chasing Ireland – with Steve Borthwick also recalling Manu Tuilagi for trip to Dublin

  • Steve Borthwick has made changes after England’s humiliating defeat to France
  • Marcus Smith started ahead of Owen Farrell as No 10 in the France beatdown 
  • George Ford is also available for selection – but is expected to narrowly miss out

Owen Farrell is set to reclaim the England No 10 shirt from Marcus Smith in Dublin as Steve Borthwick prepares to go back to the future by deploying the midfield trio who upset Ireland four years ago.

In 2019, the national team went to the Irish capital in round one of the Six Nations and beat the reigning Grand Slam champions 32-20 – in what was regarded as one of the finest victories of Eddie Jones’s tenure as head coach. 

Now, his successor is ready to re-deploy the same 10-12-13 axis who starred in that momentous victory; captain Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade.

Borthwick is due to announce his line-up on Friday evening but, barring any late disruption, sources have indicated to Sportsmail that Farrell will return at fly-half, after occupying a bench role last weekend as Smith wore 10 against France. 

The skipper came on early in the second half of that mis-match at Twickenham but was unable to turn the tide as the title-holders romped to a record 53-10 win which sent shockwaves around English rugby.

Owen Farrell is set to reclaim his place at No 10 for England against Ireland this weekend

Tuilagi is set to line up alongside Farrell in midfield

Slade will also place in the midfield trio

Manu Tuilagi (left) and Henry Slade (right) are both set to line up alongside Farrell in midfield

Head coach Steve Borthwick has reverted back to the trio that upset Ireland four years ago

Head coach Steve Borthwick has reverted back to the trio that upset Ireland four years ago

Smith is expected to feature among the replacements on Saturday, as he did against Italy at Twickenham and in the tense victory over Wales in Cardiff – when he was sent on with just 14 seconds of the 80 minutes left on the clock. 

George Ford was retained in the Red Rose training squad and deemed to be available for selection, having played 80 minutes for Sale last weekend, after his recovery from a serious Achilles injury. But he is expected to miss out on a place in the 23.

Tuilagi’s return in midfield is a major turn-around for a veteran who appeared to have very little chance of being involved in this Six Nations, after being sent off during a Sale game last month, for thrusting his forearm into Tommy Freeman’s head at Northampton. 

Borthwick had already left him out of match-day squads in the first two rounds amid the heartening re-emergence of Ollie Lawrence, but the Bath centre is out with a hamstring injury, which created a vacancy.

England lacked clout in the collisions against France and Tuilagi is undoubtedly capable of addressing that glaring shortcoming in the Red Rose repertoire. 

He may also be regarded as a lucky charm in this next fixture, having played six times against Ireland and won the lot. 

In 2019, his rampaging early carries set a thunderous tone and the visitors didn’t look back, with Slade scoring two tries and Farrell kicking 12 points in a famous win.

England were humbled by France at Twickenham last weekend as their struggles continued

England were humbled by France at Twickenham last weekend as their struggles continued

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