Marcus Smith joins list of high-profile Six Nations casualties

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Marcus Smith became the latest big-name absentee from the second round of Guinness Six Nations matches as England named their XV to face Italy.

The Harlequins fly-half and 2021 British and Irish Lions tourist missed out as head coach Steve Borthwick responded to an opening loss against Scotland.

It follows an eye-catching Wales selection and here, the PA news agency looks at the high-profile casualties.

Alun Wyn Jones, Wales

Alun Wyn Jones sings the national anthem
Alun Wyn Jones has been a Wales stalwart for over 15 years (Joe Giddens/PA)

Jones’ 168 Test caps, made up by 12 for the Lions, are a world record – beating Richie McCaw’s 148 for New Zealand – and he has been a near-constant on the teamsheet since his debut in 2006. He captained Wales to their 2019 grand slam and was named player of the tournament and has been named in every Lions squad since 2009, setting a professional-era record of 12 consecutive Tests for the combined British and Irish team and captaining them in South Africa in 2021, when he recovered from a dislocated shoulder to return to the tour.

Marcus Smith, England

England caps: 13
Points: 139
Lions tours: 2021

Not as experienced as the other names on this list but Smith’s prodigious playmaking talent saw him anointed early in his career as England’s future – training with the senior squad as early as 2017, aged 18 – which will make his omission a shock to many. His partnership with captain Owen Farrell, who will move from inside centre to replace him in the number 10 jersey, has come under scrutiny amid England’s indifferent run of form. Smith was called up as injury cover on the most recent Lions tour and played one non-Test match against South African club side the Stormers.

Taulupe Faletau, Wales

Taulupe Faletau, centre left, is tackled by Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw, right, and Peter O’Mahony
Taulupe Faletau, centre left, will have to settle for a place on the bench (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Cardiff number eight was another casualty of Warren Gatland’s scrum overhaul following defeat to Ireland, though unlike Jones and Justin Tipuric he was at least given a place on the bench. The move comes as he nears a century of Wales caps, with his five Tests for the Lions already taking him to three figures overall. The most recent two of his 10 Wales tries came in November’s internationals against Argentina and Australia.

Justin Tipuric, Wales

Wales caps: 90
Points: 55
Lions tours: 2013, 2017, 2021

The overlooked trio have a combined 342 caps for Wales and 18 for the Lions, with Tipuric’s lone Test appearance for the latter coming against Australia on his debut tour in 2013. Another scorer in the autumn, crossing against New Zealand for his 11th international try – the first three of which came in successive Tests against Ireland, home and away, and Uruguay in 2015.

Ben Youngs, England

Ben Youngs, right
Ben Youngs was not even among the 29 players retained for this weekend’s game (Adam Davy/PA)

France named an unchanged XV while Ireland and Scotland made just one injury-influenced change apiece but Youngs’ absence from England’s 29-man squad altogether was another notable call and puts his World Cup involvement later this year in doubt. His country’s most-capped player, having passed former prop Jason Leonard’s 114 appearances during last year’s tournament, he has scored 20 international tries. His two Lions caps came on the 2013 tour of Australia, while he pulled out of the 2017 squad for family reasons.

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