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Fin Smith sheds light on what Dan Biggar said in 'cool' pep talk

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Last weekend at Franklin’s Gardens was very much the case of master and apprentice as Northampton, orchestrated by seasoned 95-cap Wales and Lions out-half Dan Biggar, shredded Worcester, who had Fin Smith wearing their No10 jersey for just the fifth time in his short career. Their paths weren’t supposed to cross this term. The 19-year-old Smith had started the campaign on loan at Ampthill in the Championship. 

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However, a serious hamstring injury to Owen Williams led to a recall earlier this month, setting up the situation that unfolded last week where a team led by a vastly experienced 32-year-old toyed with an opposition depending on a rookie 19-year-old to offer solutions with his pack constantly on the back foot in a 10-66 mauling.    

Post-game, the BT Sport cameras couldn’t get enough of the pictures of Biggar taking time out on the pitch to have some words for Smith, a player 13 years his junior. They had met previously, Smith coming off the Sixways bench last March when Northampton hammered Worcester 62-14 and this acquaintance was cordially renewed seven months later.

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Dan Biggar on why the Autumn Nations Series is the most brutal of all
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Dan Biggar on why the Autumn Nations Series is the most brutal of all

“I chatted to Dan last season because he is good mates with Ashley Beck from their time at Ospreys, so we were having a bit of stick about Beck and we were both having a good laugh about him and then just catching up. Last week he was saying that he thought I had done well and that you can’t let results like this bog you down too much. 

“He said he has been in there that position at my age and he said that he saw a lot of the player he was when he was my age. I appreciated that a lot. The main thing was like all it is going to take is just one good performance and the confidence will just start building and building. 

“I thought it was great of him, someone with that much experience to take the chance to speak – he could see it was a young lad hurting after a pretty tough performance. It was great of him to do that but the main message was just head up, don’t put it all on yourself and just crack on next week. It was great, a really cool moment for me.”

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In the days after, Smith, who will start again for Worcester this Saturday at home to Sale, made sure to zone in footage of precisely what Biggar got up in the ten tries to one contest. “I had a good look at some of the stuff he was doing after the game, the good parts of the Northampton game and how we maybe can put that into some of our attack. He is a really classy operator. I thought it was important for me to sit down and see some of the nice touches he had.

“Last weekend hit me harder than most of the games I have been involved in so far. I have been on the back end of a few quite tough losses but going to Northampton away we needed a really big result and the way we were it wasn’t necessarily a skill thing at times, it was just where we were mindset wise. That is what hurt the most. 

“I have watched the game countless times to pick out things. It is definitely the one I have taken the most learning from. Hopefully, that is going to fuel me in the right way. A part of the challenge of being young is to not get too caught up in rugby, how I can be better moving away from that and being able to separate my life from the game and when I am out of this place [Sixways] and at home, it is a complete switch off. That is definitely one of the big work ons.” 

Of great help in not thinking rugby 24/7 is his living arrangements. “I am living in the academy house at the moment with nine of the other boys so that is a pretty good getaway, there is always something going on. You can imagine we have some pretty good fun there. I have been trying to get into my golf recently and I am doing an Open Uni degree in economics and maths so that is over six years and keeps me ticking over on my days off.”

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A grandson of the late Tom Elliot, the Scotland player who toured with the 1955 Lions in South Africa, Fin is a kid with a potentially very bright future ahead. Smith arrived into Worcester pre-season off the back of guiding the England U20s to Six Nations Grand Slam glory and he was enjoying his brief experience of earning his stripes in the Championship at Ampthill before the recall call came from Warriors boss Jonathan Thomas.   

“Ampthill was great for me as a fly-half. You can kick for how many weeks in front of an empty stadium at some posts but just having the opportunity to do that in games, just tackling, taking restarts, kicking to touch, those are things you are not going to be able to practice unless you are under fatigue in a game so that was particularly important especially for me going into a group of men who were a pretty tight group, having to try and lead them. 

“I thought that was a good challenge and something I have learned from and I was working with (Ampthill boss) Paul Turner, who is a really experienced fly-half himself so definitely some good learnings. 

“I’d like to think I am quite assertive,” added Smith when asked what his style of play is as a No10. “I’d like you to think I can lead a group of boys, I quite enjoy defending. You would look at me and think he is not going to be a really good defender but I quite like getting stuck in there, and then I’d like to think how I am fairly knowledgeable around how I play.

“So decision making at a line, understanding when to kick, when to pass, when to run, things like that. I would say I am not the most flashy fly-half ever. I am not going to have an exciting highlight reel or anything like that but I think I can put a team in a decent position on the pitch and move the ball around.”

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