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The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation

Eddie Jones' England weren't far away from making the grade.

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An ex-All Blacks fly-half has rated the 'bossing it' Marcus Smith

By Chris Jones
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Harlequins attack coach Nick Evans has claimed that last Saturday’s remarkable England draw with New Zealand can be the launching pad for Marcus Smith to start bossing the national team heading into next year’s Rugby World Cup in France. Smith had struggled to find the room to display his many talents until the final ten minutes at Twickenham on Saturday when a three-try burst allowed England to finish all-square with an All Blacks.

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The 25-all outcome was evidence that the Harlequins No10 can play alongside Owen Farrell and that the positioning of the England captain at inside centre doesn’t need to hinder Smith’s natural attacking game.

Former All Blacks out-half Evans had been waiting for the 23-year-old Smith to transfer that kind of Harlequins performance to the Test arena. He said: “That showed what England can do and that is when you will get the best out of Marcus.

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“The game fell Marcus’ way and he was playing what he sees. We coach that a lot here and when the game gets to the last quarter it does open up with unstructured footy and Marcus thrives in that situation. He gets himself on the ball and it looked like he was bossing it.”

Evans views Smith as the England quarterback and while Farrell possesses a stronger kicking game, the running part of the attack is where the youngster comes alive. He explained: ”Like an NFL quarterback your job in the final minutes is to go down the field and create a game-winning scenario and guys like Marcus can get you into that position.

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“That is what impressed me most because it was a tough game for Marcus and he had the ability to recognise a change in momentum and get himself onto the ball. There is more to come from him. That last ten minutes is something he can put into his back pocket and say, ‘I have been in this position before and rely on that experience’. When it comes to a World Cup semi-final or final he knows what that picture looks like. After the finish against the All Blacks, they [England] will all be on board with what Marcus can do.

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“It was great to see him do the hitch kick and as soon as he did that and accelerate through the gap the team reacted. That is important because you suddenly saw people playing flatter and the point of attack moved quickly.”

What was Evans’ view on Smith’s decision to kick the ball out of play to end the game and not try to win the contest with the final play? “At the end, teams have different scenarios in their locker and I’m sure they had their reasons for not keeping playing and you have to respect that. There is a lot more going on than people realise.”

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