France captain Dupont still wary of benched Farrell

France captain Antoine Dupont said Owen Farrell remained "a massive asset to England ahead of Saturday's 'Le Crunch' Six Nations clash at Twickenham even though the former English skipper has been dropped to the bench.

England coach Steve Borthwick named the veteran fly-half as his skipper before the tournament.

But in just the fourth game of his reign as Red Rose boss, former England captain Borthwick has demoted Farrell to a position among the replacements, with the gifted Marcus Smith wearing the No 10 shirt instead.

Dupont, who will be a key figure in tournament hosts France's bid to win this year's World Cup, praised Smith.

"He's a player who enjoys the attacking game, he's great on the one-on-ones," said Dupont during a Twickenham news conference on Friday.

"He might not be as in control as Farrell, but having Farrell's experience on the bench is invaluable. It's a massive asset."

Dupont, a 26-year-old scrum-half, added: "At this level, the final minutes of the game are very important so having Farrell come off the bench is great of them."

For all the talk of Smith and Farrell's different styles, Dupont was not expecting a huge shift in England's approach.

"A team's strategy doesn't change just because of one player," he said. "We know they'll be leaning towards the kicking game. They enjoy putting their opponent under pressure.

"Smith knows how to do it. He might be more dangerous than Farrell, but Farrell is better defensively. They have different profiles but can be complementary at the end of the game."

France's bid for consecutive Grand Slams ended with a 32-19 loss to unbeaten tournament leaders Ireland last month.

That reverse ended an impressive run of 14 consecutive Test wins, a run stretching back to July 2021.

- 'Big moment' -

France remain in title contention but must end an 18-year wait for a Six Nations win at Twickenham if they are to keep pace with Ireland, who face Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday.

"Whenever we're away from home, it's tough," said Dupont.

"The games aren't easy. It's difficult to win away, especially here. We haven't done it since 2005 in the Six Nations. We know how difficult it is but we are ready."

France, however, came close to ending that winless sequence when they last played a Championship match at Twickenham before going down 23-20 in 2021.

Dupont dismissed talk of a 'hoodoo'.

"We play every game to win," he said. "The last one ended in a three-point difference. We'll have to be at our best but we know it's going to be complicated. The English will also want to win.

"But we don't really think about past experiences."

As for suggestions the current England team were weak, Dupont replied: "Two years ago, we were kind of favourites but we lost.

"Just looking at their squad, you can see the quality, the experience... even if they aren't at their best.

"They have players who can play in the biggest moments and tomorrow is a big moment."