Steve Borthwick challenges England on the summer tour as part of his leadership oath

Competition: Marcus Smith and Fin Smith will battle to become England’s starting center link this summer (Getty Images)

Steve Borthwick has backed Marcus Smith and Fin Smith to fill the second-half management gap left by the absence of Owen Farrell and George Ford for England.

The summer tour of Japan and New Zealand will mark the first time in history that both Smiths will serve in England without Farrell and Ford.

Farrell has resigned from Red Rose and is now ineligible due to his impending transfer to Racing 92, while Ford will miss the summer tour with an Achilles tendon injury.

Fin Smith, who played in three games for Northampton, was just nine years old when former Test captain Farrell made his England debut in the 2012 Six Nations.

However, the 22-year-old led Saints to the Gallagher Premiership title this season, beating Farrell’s Saracens in the semi-final.

England lose the experience of 203 appearances for the Red Rose due to the absence of Farrell and Ford, while both Smiths have just 34 Test appearances to their name.

England’s 36-strong squad will fly to Japan on Wednesday to face Eddie Jones’ Brave Blossoms in Tokyo on June 22.

This will be followed by Tests against New Zealand in Dunedin on July 6 and Auckland on July 13 on a relentless summer tour.

Borthwick’s head coach had enough faith in Smiths, Marcus and Finn not to take a third specialist semi-final on the road, with full-back George Furbank and center Henry Slade proving to be further cover.

Former England captain Borthwick has given his full support to his two centre-backs, insisting his team must have the leadership they need.

“One of the key balances as a coach is always the space you give players to lead,” Borthwick said.

“In the past, the English team has been criticized for its lack of leaders. I saw the true depth of leadership that I needed to give space to lead.

“Apparently I usually have three fly halves in the team, we had three fly halves in the World Cup and three in the Six Nations.

“Now there are only two fly halves in specialist positions; this clearly gives them more space.

“There is a chance of a different starting half on the fly and there is a chance that one half will really grab this team and push it forward and the other half will be a real support and option.

“Marcus’ ability to play as a full-back also means that Fin and Marcus can also play together on the pitch.”

England are preparing for a tough test against a Japanese team led by former England coach Jones. Borthwick’s team will next face a formidable All Blacks team on their home turf, with successful head coach Scott Robertson having just taken over the reins of New Zealand.

England will be without vice-captain Ellis Genge on this tour, with the Bristol prop expected to be sidelined with a hamstring problem.

Genge’s absence has further reduced England’s experience levels, but Borthwick is adamant there are enough leaders in his squad.

We are blessed with real depth of leadership in our group

England coach Steve Borthwick

“You need a group of leaders, it’s never just about one person,” Borthwick said.

“It depends on the group. Maro Itoje is a key leader in our group. We have witnessed the emergence of Ben Earl as senior leader.

“You see Tom Curry back in the lineup. There are others throughout the squad – you don’t need to give Dan Cole or Joe Marler any formal leadership title: they lead.

“You saw Alex Mitchell, Fin Smith and Marcus Smith leading their teams. So we are blessed to have some really deep leaders in our group.”