Skip to content

Will Greenwood: Marcus Smith-Owen Farrell combo not England's biggest worry after Six Nations loss to Scotland

Former England international Will Greenwood speaks to Sky Sports News to reflect on the defeat to Scotland at Twickenham in Saturday's opening Six Nations match and look ahead to this weekend's game at home to Italy

England v Scotland - Guinness Six Nations - Twickenham Stadium
England's Owen Farrell appears dejected after the Guinness Six Nations match at Twickenham Stadium, London. Picture date: Saturday February 4, 2023.
Image: England Owen Farrell was dejected after the defeat to Scotland on Saturday

Will Greenwood believes England need to revert to picking specialists centres and a fly-half, but says wider issues around the attacking game should be the focus.

The decision of new head coach Steve Borthwick to keep deploying captain Owen Farrell at inside centre with Marcus Smith at fly-half has come under scrutiny following the 29-23 defeat to Scotland in Saturday's Six Nations opener at Twickenham.

The former England centre would prefer to see a specialist at No 12, although he acknowledges the options are limited following Borthwick's decision to drop Manu Tuilagi, and with midfield duo Henry Slade and Elliot Daly both sidelined due to injury along with 21-year-old Leicester Tigers star Dan Kelly.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Will Greenwood feels the Owen Farrell-Marcus Smith partnership for England might have been a result of the 'slightly forced' nature of Steve Borthwick's available options.

However, speaking to Sky Sports News, Greenwood added that he felt the bigger concern was around the work Borthwick and attack coach Nick Evans need to do in encouraging the players not to stand deep from the opponents' defensive line when on the offensive.

"I've sort of felt that [England need to] pick a fly-half and pick two centres," Greenwood said. "Steve's hand has been slightly forced; he could have picked Manu, but with Dan Kelly out - I think which is where they could have gone - Slade out, Daly out, a lot of his centres were unavailable.

"That's not to make excuses for the performance, but I still think England should pick a No 10 and two centres.

"If you take away from the individuals and actually explore what those individuals are doing, having watched the game three times now to try to find shoots of recovery, everything is a little too deep and not relevant to the personnel.

Also See:

Duhan van der Merwe scores Scotland's second try at Twickenham
Image: Duhan van der Merwe led the way for Scotland with two tries in the win over England

"I actually think it's more of an issue for Nick Evans and the coaching staff to give players the confidence to go 'there's the opposition's nose, go there and don't be back here and give the opposition the initiative'."

Two tries from Duhan van der Merwe and one apiece for Huw Jones and Ben White helped Scotland on their way to a bonus-point victory over England which saw them claim the Calcutta Cup for the third year running - the first time they have achieved that since 1972.

Borthwick, who was appointed as Eddie Jones' replacement in December, has acknowledged the challenges facing England with the next Rugby World Cup in France just eight months away.

Yet Greenwood is adamant any talk of the World Cup should be put to one side for now, with the focus needing to be solely on the visit of Italy, a team who have never beaten England, to Twickenham on Sunday.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

England World Cup winner Will Greenwood believes more time and work is needed for head coach Steve Borthwick to improve the overall quality of his side.

"We are where we are, and I think Steve Borthwick has come out and said 'I've inherited a team which aren't world-class in any department'," Greenwood said.

"He highlighted the ruck, and it seems he has gone about fixing a couple of those issues. But the bigger issue is we are there to be taken by better teams, we are unable to put teams away when we get in front, and it needs more time and more work.

"I'm always a positive English fan, it's tough times, and it has been a pretty lean time for victories and glory, but we hope we're only a few days away from grabbing a win.

"Forget about France in September and October, we need to put together a run of results in this Six Nations which allows us to feel like we're starting to make progress."

Ange Capuozzo
Image: Italy posed reigning Six Nations champions France plenty of problems before going down to a narrow loss in Rome

Italy went into this year's Six Nations buoyed by ending a long winless run in the tournament with a victory over Wales in the final match of 2022 and a win over Australia in the Autumn Nations Series, pushing France all the way in their opener on Sunday before eventually falling to a 29-24 loss.

Greenwood saw that narrow defeat to the reigning Six Nations champions as a further sign of the progress Italy have made since former New Zealand international Kieran Crowley took charge, but still expects England to come out on top at Twickenham this weekend.

"They've been really developing under Crowley," Greenwood said. "They're really playing and exploring from deep.

"Now, you can see the quality they have available. I certainly think they'll pose Kevin Sinfield's defence questions because they run it from virtually everywhere before they go to the kicking option.

"I'm not taking anything for granted and records are there to be broken, but England have never lost to Italy. I think we absolutely have to prepare for a seriously intense Test match, but as a fan I'm not anticipating them to lose."

Around Sky