SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Marcus Smith can be a game-changer capable of transforming the way England attack… but if he is chosen at No 10 by Eddie Jones this autumn Owen Farrell must be on the BENCH, not at 12

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  • I would have started England games long before Marcus Smith this autumn
  • Harlequins man is an extraordinary, potentially once in a generation genius
  • I’ve been and still am a big supporter of Owen Farrell, but as number 10, not 12
  • Smith and Farrell together won’t worry about teams that have kicked off 2019

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As you may have gathered over the years, one of my mantras is that selection is the most difficult but important aspect of international coaching.

It takes over everything else. Ultimately a coach stands or falls on the selection.

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So with that in mind, we now have the dilemma of either Marcus Smith or Owen Farrell for England.

I would have started Smith for England long before this autumn
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We have a Marcus Smith (right) or Owen Farrell (left) dilemma when it comes to England’s head

I’ve been playing Smith’s drums for a long time and would have started England games long before this autumn.

They have wasted the last two years, learning very little.

He is an extraordinary, potentially passed-on talent capable of changing the way England attack and enduring all his immense firepower. In this respect he reminds me of Jason Robinson.

He could be a game-changer for England, as Jason’s incredible attacking threat added so much when he came out of rugby league, winning 51 caps between 2001 and 2007.

I've been beating Smith for a long time, England have wasted the last two years

I’ve been beating Smith for a long time, England have wasted the last two years

As a coach you pray for thanks. When such talents come along, they can lift the mood and ambition of the entire team. Smith has that ability.

England’s opponents will be hoping that they will find no way to fully harness his talent and energy.

However, as we saw in the cell last Friday, Smith can be turned off by opponents who are on the front foot and dominate the front. Can England give Smith the stage? They cannot choose him to initiate and delegate all the responsibility to him.

Can other players buy into the counter-attacking, quick ruck ball, off-the-cuff mentality that he loves and that has made Harlequin so successful and irresistible to watch?

If you give your head to Smith, England should play differently than they did in the last two years. This is not a revolution but a development born out of necessity.

He's been able to change the way England attack and reminds me of Jason Robinson

He’s been able to change the way England attack and reminds me of Jason Robinson

Last autumn England were very poor and finished fifth out of six nations with only two victories. They have to change.

Appreciating the challenge Smith is bringing now, and perhaps coming out of the peace after the 2019 World Cup, Owen Farrell is reacting like a champion and I think a big one ahead for the Saracens captain. It’s season.

He’s got a little bit between his teeth and someone’s pay. Had a shower on Sunday.

I’ve been and still am a huge Pharrell supporter, but as No. 10, not 12. At his best he is a world class 10 as opposed to a decent 12. There’s a huge gap at the elite level and he’s deeply down on wanting No. 10 on his back.

So now it is crisis time for head coach Eddie Jones. It’s either Smith or Farrell at 10.

If Smith is approved, Farrell will have to go to the bench. England need a fit Manu Tuilagi – or with his qualities – playing 12. England will have to find a combination of 10-12-13 which is going to scare the world.

So now it is crisis time for head coach Eddie Jones.  This 10.  but is smith or farrell

So now it is crisis time for head coach Eddie Jones. This 10. but is smith or farrell

I don’t think Smith and Farrell together will worry about the teams that have kicked off Japan since 2019. Smith (or Pharrell) at 10, Manu at 12 and Henry Slade at 13 is as good as there is – all playing their best. positions.

Playing George Ford and Farrell together did not work, including in the World Cup final, and Eddie would be making the same mistake if he opted for the Smith/Farrell combination. Give Smith three autumn games and then bring Ferrell back to 10 in the Six Nations if Smith hasn’t lived up to his potential.

Moving on with this major selection—the toughest I would suggest of Eddie’s career—is the other big dilemma. scrum half. Which number 9 would best give Smith his independence, or best complement Farrell?

Eddie can address that issue only after picking his 10. Behind Ben Youngs lies a stalemate of talent creation. There’s nothing to choose between seasoned youngsters, Rafi Quirke and Harry Randall, though I’m amazed by Dan Robson’s continued exile.

England need a fit Manu Tuilagi - or one with his qualities - to play as an inside center

England need a fit Manu Tuilagi – or one with his qualities – to play as an inside center

There is another very tight call at full back where Freddie Steward has size, presence and great assurance under the high ball while Max Malins has pace, deceit and a tendency to be a trying scorer.

The agreement is to take Malins in the wing, but I’m not sure he’s a top-class winger. He can be a great full back though. My wings would be Adam Radwan and Louis Lynagh – speed, appetite and skill – but alas Lynagh has disappeared from the team despite a good start to the season.

Johnny May and Anthony Watson are on notice, from now on only their best form will suffice and neither are making waves. I’m worried about Tom Curry’s talk at No.

Don’t England already have two extraordinary No.8s in Sam Simmonds and Alex Dombrandt?

Let one of them do their stuff with Curry and Sam Underhill in the back row at the flanker. Take that tough decision.

George Ford and Farrell didn't benefit from playing together, including in the World Cup final

George Ford and Farrell didn’t benefit from playing together, including in the World Cup final

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