England captain Owen Farrell hails Marcus Smith as a ‘massive talent’ who can open up a game… Saracens star is relishing a new partnership for autumn Tests despite coveting No 10 shirt
- Marcus Smith is destined to wear the England No 10 shirt in the autumn Tests
- Harlequins prodigy set to line up with Owen Farrell at inside centre for England
- England captain Farrell admitted that his recent form had been sub-standard
If Owen Farrell is feeling at all threatened by the rapid rise of Marcus Smith, he hid it well, with the England captain lauding the country’s new playmaker sensation.
As Sportsmail revealed earlier this month, Smith is destined to wear the No 10 shirt in autumn Tests against Tonga, Australia and South Africa, with Farrell leading the national team from inside centre.
The Harlequins prodigy propelled his club to Premiership title glory at the end of last season before making his international debut and going on to earn a call-up to the Lions tour in South Africa.
Harlequins prodigy Marcus Smith is destined to wear the England No 10 shirt in autumn Tests
Farrell has been impressed by Smith, despite his good friend George Ford being omitted from the England squad as a direct result of the 22-year-old’s emergence.
‘He’s obviously a massive talent and a very exciting player,’ Farrell said, from a temporary training base in Jersey. ‘He’s someone who can unlock a game himself but he’s also got a brilliant eye for how to make a team work as well.
‘We’ve worked together before. He has been in camps before, when he was a bit younger. I shared a room with him in the past and it was good to get to know him a bit better over the summer.
‘He is a brilliant lad – not just a very talented player, but a proper student of the game. That sounds like a bit of a cliche, but he is really bothered about getting better and understanding the game a bit more, and he loves chatting about rugby. That made it easy for me to get on with him!
Owen Farrell (right) and Smith have shared a room in the past during England training camps
‘He seems like he is confident because he’s done the work. He understands the game and knows exactly what he wants to get out of it. He speaks sense. That helps when it comes to playing in the position that he does. He is doing that really well.’
Farrell is well known for his fierce commitment and his ultra-competitive streak. In that regard, he evidently sees Smith as something of a kindred spirit.
‘Passion for the game oozes out of him,’ he said. ‘He loves scoring; he loves doing well for his team. He’s obviously really enjoying playing at the minute. He wears his heart on his sleeve. That’s a massive asset – the immense passion he’s got for the game.’
At least publicly, there is no hint of Farrell’s ego being dented by the prospect of Smith occupying the No 10 he would covet for himself.
‘Whatever fits best for the group, I will be happy with,’ he said, when asked about operating at inside centre, as he has done so often alongside Ford. He also played down the possibility that it will take time for the new creative partnership to click.
Farrell admitted his recent form had been sub-standard following criticism from Eddie Jones
‘It can do, but it doesn’t have to,’ said Farrell. ‘Marcus loves talking about rugby and trying to understand the game a bit better. If I can help him do that, I’d love to.’
Last month, when he gathered an enlarged squad of 45 for a short training camp, Jones argued that Farrell’s recent form had been sub-standard. There was no complaint from the skipper when that was put to him yesterday.
‘I’d agree with him,’ he said. ‘I could have played better. I’d agree there are parts of my game that I want to get back to and do more of, that I’ve done well in the past maybe. I came back this summer and couldn’t wait to get back to playing for the club and being out there on the field again. I’m excited to see what’s in front of us now with this England team.’
Having a stellar reputation has not saved Saracens team-mates Billy and Mako Vunipola from being cast into Test exile, at least temporarily. So was Farrell concerned about his own position?
‘I’ve never thought anyone was un-droppable,’ he said. ‘You always have to work hard to be in this team. That’s never going to be any different.’
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