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Even Harlequins were kept in the dark over Smith's Lions call

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Alex Davidson/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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The weekend call-up of Marcus Smith by the Lions in South Africa was such a surprise that the first Harlequins CEO Laurie Dalrymple knew their player was wanted by Warren Gatland was when he heard it mentioned on live TV during the second half of last Saturday’s England summer series match versus Canada at Twickenham. 


It was known by the London club that Smith was on a standby list of players who potentially could be called up by the Lions, but they were kept in the dark that this call-up was actually happening, something that didn’t allow them the opportunity to better publicise and promote the breaking news that their star player was now a 2021 Lions tourist.

The 22-year-old was at the heart of the incredible end-of-season run by Harlequins to the Gallagher Premiership title, Smith unleashing an array of attacking armoury in the playoff wins over Exeter and Bristol before going on to win his first two England Test caps with selection by Eddie Jones as their No10 for the wins over the USA and Canada.

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Lions boss Warren Gatland talks about Alun Wyn Jones’ recovery from last month’s dislocated shoulder
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Lions boss Warren Gatland talks about Alun Wyn Jones’ recovery from last month’s dislocated shoulder

That second England victory was accompanied by the extraordinary sight of Smith being told to go into the Twickenham tunnel after being substituted to be told that he had been call-up by the Lions to cover for the injured Finn Russell and would be flying out to South Africa, news that had broken only minutes earlier when the Lions tweeted their latest squad news just prior to their rematch versus the Sharks. 

“No,” said Dalrymple when asked if he had been aware in advance that Smith was joining the Lions. “I was aware that clearly there is a waiting list, a separate squad that knows they are potentially going to get called up so, of course, we are aware of that. But yeah, it was a slight surprise as to the timing I have got to be honest. I was watching TV with everyone else when I found out. 

“He was in the England camp at that point, it falls under their management. They spoke with the RFU on Friday on their call. It became their call, not so much Harlequins. We are just super proud of what he has achieved. He has had the most amazing (year), he is such a strong competitor, he is such an amazing guy to have in the group and it is interesting, in the week leading up to the final and the semi-final sometimes the reassurance you get just from talking to him alone you just think right we are going to be alright because he is just so unswervingly determined to succeed so such an admirable quality. 


“Not in any way taking away anything of what he has achieved in the last six months at all, having a few more hours to be prepared and amplify our appreciation and feeling of success on his behalf would have been nice but yeah, he goes with a huge amount of our support and we wish him all the best. 

“Having seen the line-up of the South Africa A team on Wednesday, I am not sure I would want him going out straight away as soon as he lands. But he will get an opportunity, of that I am certain, and knowing Marcus he will give it his absolute all and he will do extremely well.” 


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