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The players set to profit from Wales' new gameplan

With the Pivac era now a distant memory, Warren Gatland has a rich seam of talent to select from in the Six Nations

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Fit-again Smith named for Six Nations dress rehearsal versus Russell

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

England out-half Marcus Smith is set to play his first rugby in seven weeks after being chosen to start for Harlequins this Sunday at Racing 92, the day before new Test-level boss Steve Borthwick names his Guinness Six Nations squad. The half-back limped off injured at Twickenham in the November 26 England defeat versus the Springboks, Eddie Jones’ last match in charge before his dismissal.

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Smith has since taken his time to mend, but his return to action will be very timely given that his rivals for the No10 England jersey, Owen Farrell and George Ford, are both currently sidelined through respective suspension and injury issues.

Farrell was banned in midweek for last weekend’s foul play tackle for Saracens versus Gloucester in the Gallagher Premiership while Ford has yet to debut for Sale following his Twickenham injury with Leicester in last June’s league final.

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With Farrell having copped a four-game ban (that can be reduced to three if he successfully completes tackle school to free him to face the Scots) and Ford’s potential return-to-play date for the Sharks being January 27, eight days before England are due to open their latest campaign at home to Scotland, the return of Smith with Harlequins is a major boost for Borthwick in a week in which Nick Evans, Smith’s club coach, was named attack coach for the Six Nations.

Smith has been included in a Harlequins XV that will also have the recently suspended Joe Marler starting. The loosehead, who is also looking for England squad selection, was banned for two matches for his December 27 verbal attack on Bristol’s Jake Heenan.

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Smith’s appearance versus Racing will potentially be a Six Nations dress rehearsal as his opposite number in the Champions Cup round three match is Scotland’s Finn Russell. Harlequins boss Tabai Matson said: “It’s great to welcome back so many players to the matchday squad after spells away from the team.

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“Our club captain Stephan Lewies and Aaron Morris, in particular, have had to display plenty of patience in their returns to fitness and have worked incredibly hard to get back for this match. It’s a huge boost to also welcome Marcus Smith and Will Evans back this week. They are two guys that make a huge difference when they are on the pitch.”

RACING 92: 15. Warrick Gelant; 14. Donovan Taofifenua, 13. Francis Saili, 12. Gael Fickou (capt), 11. Juan Imhoff; 10. Finn Russell, 9. Nolann Le Garrec; 1. Guram Gogichashvili, 2. Camille Chat, 3. Cedate Gomes Sa, 4. Cameron Woki, 5. Boris Palu, 6. Ibrahim Diallo, 7. Baptiste Chouzenoux, 8. Maxime Baudonne. Reps: 16. Peniami Narisia, 17. Eddy Ben Arous, 18. Trevor Nyakane, 19. Anthime Hemery, 20. Kitione Kamikamica, 21. Antoine Gibert, 22. Olivier Klemenczak, 23. Max Spring.

HARLEQUINS: 15. Nick David; 14. Cadan Murley, 13. Joe Marchant, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Aaron Morris; 10. Marcus Smith, 9. Danny Care; 1. Joe Marler, 2. Jack Walker, 3. Wilco Louw, 4. Stephan Lewies, 5. Irne Herbst, 6. Luke Wallace, 7. Will Evans, 8. Alex Dombrandt (capt). Reps: 16. George Head, 17. Jordan Els, 18. Simon Kerrod, 19. George Hammond, 20. Tom Lawday, 21. Lewis Gjaltema, 22. Oscar Beard 23. Will Edwards.

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