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England: The All Blacks-type influence Marcus Smith must develop

By Liam Heagney

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England boss Eddie Jones has suggested Test level newcomer Marcus Smith should do his homework on how the All Blacks are currently evolving out-half play and start developing those nuances in his own game. The 22-year-old enjoyed a Hollywood-like rise during the summer, swaggeringly leading Harlequins to the Premiership title, getting his first two England caps and then receiving a call from the Lions to join them in South Africa.

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It’s a breakthrough that has since been further endorsed by Jones, who on Tuesday included Smith in his 45-man mini-training camp at the expense of George Ford, the regular England No10 for many years and the starter at out-half in the 2019 World Cup final. 

That selection suggests the pathway now exists for Smith to go and quickly become an integral part of the England set-up leading into the 2023 World Cup finals in France. Along the way, though, Jones would like his new talisman to take cognisance of the evolving style of half-back play currently unfolding in New Zealand. 

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Who was the top All Blacks performer in last weekend’s win over Argentina?
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Who was the top All Blacks performer in last weekend’s win over Argentina?

The All Blacks in recent months have started three different out-halves, Richie Mo’unga being the No10 for four matches, Beauden Barrett for three and Damian McKenzie once, and the rugby they have played is something England boss Jones reckons Smith should take on board to become an even better player than the breakthrough youngster that he is.  

“Young Marcus, I thought he was in trouble in that USA Test and then he gets a plane ticket to the Lions,” quipped Jones when asked to review the recent progress made by Smith, Harry Randall and summer series skipper Lewis Ludlow, a trio of England newcomers.  

“We are looking for him to continue to develop his game and you have just got to see the way that Barrett and Mo’unga are playing for the All Blacks what is needed in a modern-day 10, a 10 that can take the line on, can be aggressive, know when to hold his depth and be an extra man in defence and that is where we are looking for him to develop his game. Damian McKenzie’s defence on the weekend was unbelievable at 10.”

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Switching to the other pair of England rookies who caught the eye in July, Jones added: “Harry did well in summer, he has got that instinctive, attacking game and the way the game is, as we saw on the Lions tour, the game can be tight, set phases and then you have got these opportunities to break. 

“80 per cent of the game is played within two passes and you have got 20 per cent of the game where you have got to have that instinctiveness, you have got to have the courage to take the opportunity and that is where Harry is so good. Lewis Ludlow can be the best back row jumper in England. He has got incredible jumping skills and he is going to keep adding to his game.”

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England: The All Blacks-type influence Marcus Smith must develop

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