The Northampton fly-half has held talks with Gregor Townsend and the Scotland coach was keen to bring him into the fold but it looks as if new England coach Steve Borthwick has persuaded the 20-year-old to pick the red rose. Smith was born in Warwick and has already played for England Under-20s but is the grandson of former Scotland and Lions prop, Tom Elliot, and his family hail from the Borders village of Clovenfords, near Galashiels.
“I have spoken to Fin a few times, prior to this summer and also over the last couple of months,” Townsend said in November. “He got a bad injury in training so has only been available for his new club Northampton for the last couple of months.”
The Scotland coach is due to name his Six Nations squad on Tuesday afternoon ahead of their opening match against England at Twickenham on February 4.
Borthwick, who was appointed by England last month following the sacking of Eddie Jones, has named a 36-man training squad for the championship. The new coach has immediately made his mark by jettisoning three established performers in Billy Vunipola, Jonny May and Jack Nowell Number eight Vunipola and wings May and Nowell were all involved in the 27-13 defeat by South Africa that concluded the autumn and spelt the end of the Jones era. While the trio are not part of the 36-man squad that will next week begin preparations for the Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 4, there are recalls for Dan Cole and Elliot Daly. Cole was dropped by England after the 2019 World Cup final while Daly has been frozen out since last year’s Championship despite his superb form for Saracens.
Smith, present for the first time, provides cover for Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith, while Ollie Hassell-Collins, George McGuigan, Cadan Murley and Jack Walker are the other uncapped players.
“This is an exciting squad with a blend of Six Nations experience and young talent and includes players who are in excellent form in the Premiership,” Borthwick said. “We are all looking forward to the challenges of the Six Nations and we will approach this great tournament with a spirit of courage and total commitment. I know the players can’t wait to get back to Twickenham and give our fans a performance they can be proud of. The hard work for the Scotland game starts now.”
Speaking at a press conference, Borthwick confirmed that Farrell will captain the squad with Ellis Genge and Courtney Lawes acting as vice-captains. Saracens star Farrell is available against Scotland despite receiving a four-match ban, reduced to three if he completes a tackle course, for a dangerous hit against Gloucester 10 days ago. It is a controversial selection because Saracens’ match against Bristol on January 28 has been included in the suspension even though he would not have played in it due to its proximity to the Six Nations.
“There was a period of uncertainty around Owen’s availability,” Borthwick said. “I was informed by the Rugby Football Union’s disciplinary department that he would be available against Scotland. My job is England head coach and to pick the best players for the job.”
England 36-man squad for the Six Nations:
Forwards: O Chessum (Leicester Tigers), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), B Curry (Sale Sharks), A Dombrandt (Harlequins), B Earl (Saracens), E Genge (Bristol Bears), J George (Saracens), J Heyes (Leicester Tigers), J Hill (Sale Sharks), N Isiekwe (Saracens), M Itoje (Saracens), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), L Ludlam (Northampton Saints), G McGuigan (Gloucester Rugby), B Rodd (Sale Sharks), S Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs), K Sinckler (Bristol Bears), M Vunipola (Saracens), J Walker (Harlequins), J Willis (Toulouse).
Backs: E Daly (Saracens), O Farrell (Saracens), T Freeman (Northampton Saints), O Hassell-Collins (London Irish), D Kelly (Leicester Tigers), M Malins (Saracens), J Marchant (Harlequins), A Mitchell (Northampton Saints), C Murley (Harlequins), H Slade (Exeter Chiefs), F Smith (Northampton Saints), M Smith (Harlequins), F Steward (Leicester Tigers), M Tuilagi (Sale Sharks), J van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers).