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Owen Farrell to replace Marcus Smith for Steven Borthwick?

England might be moving away from Marcus Smith with Steven Borthwick hire.

Gerry Thornley joined Wednesday Night Rugby to discuss England, Marcus Smith and Steven Borthwick.

England are expected to name Steven Borthwick their new head coach.

Borthwick previously worked under Eddie Jones as Forwards coach, before moving to Leicester. At Leicester, he turned the team from relegation candidates to Premiership contenders. Borthwick is a beloved character in English rugby and he is expected to reconnect the national team with the club game.

Eddie Jones famously didn't put any stock in club form. He reportedly didn't have much of a relationship with club bosses and largely made decisions without anyone else's input.

Borthwick is not just English, but he's also a career English club rugby player and part of the system. He's a favourite of players and also plays a clear brand of rugby. England will become more focused on the pack and kicking the ball from the 10 position.

That means Marcus Smith is not likely to start and Owen Farrell is more likely to move back inside. Gerry Thornley explained on Monday Night Rugby.

"Borthwick will come in and probably resort to a lot of pack power and a lot of kicking in the air," Thornley said.

"Play to what are perceived as English strengths. I wouldn't be surprised if Owen Farrell gets back in at number 10. And Marcus Smith becomes a bench impact player, for example. It's more perhaps suited to England and make them more of a threat at the next World Cup.

"At least everyone will understand, not least the players, what they're trying to do."

Borthwick will give England someone they like, but it's not clear he will be a good World Cup coach. Simplifying the gameplan is an easy sell until the rugby is turgid and boring. If he doesn't get quick results, there won't be any honeymoon period because we are less than 12 months out from a World Cup.

Thornley acknowledges that Borthwick is the safe approach but believes in him because of his success at club level.

"It's a safe pair of hands to play what is a pretty cautious brand of rugby judging by what Leicester have done. Of course Borthwick is highly, highly regarded as a coach by players of worked under him. The proof is what he's done with Leicester.

"I do think it's the obvious appointment. The safest pair of hands they could have gone with as well."

Eddie Jones was not likeable and the results were bad lately, but he is a proven World Cup coach. England now enter a period of uncertainty. Maybe Borthwick settles the ship, but he's not likely to make things dramatically better just by simplifying things.

Especially if that means Marcus Smith plays less.

England were expected to move forward over these last two years, building towards the next World Cup. But Jones didn't do that cohesively so now they find themselves in between identities. Borthwick could very well prove to be a backwards step, despite the excitement now.

For the fans, it might be especially hard to take when Scott Robertson and Ronan O'Gara were potential candidates too.

John Cooney is one of Ireland's two best scrum halves - Gordon D'Arcy


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Marcus Smith Owen Farrell Steven Borthwick