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Gatland has delivered a 'superstar' assessment of Marcus Smith

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Mid-trip call-up Marcus Smith will head home from the 2021 Lions tour with a ringing endorsement from Warren Gatland, the coach who brought England rookie out to South Africa as an early July injury cover for the injured Finn Russell rather than bring in veteran Ireland out-half Johnny Sexton who had featured in Test matches for the famed tourists in 2017 and 2013.     

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The 22-year-old had just come off at Twickenham in his second capped appearance for England on July 10 when he learned that he was wanted by the Lions and the 2021 Gallagher Premiership title winner with Harlequins went on to make one tour appearance, starting the July 17 match versus the Stormers in Cape Town. 

Smith didn’t go on to feature in the Test series versus the Springboks, Gatland instead selecting Dan Biggar as his No10 for all three games with Owen Farrell twice providing cover from the bench and Russell filling that back-up role in Saturday’s series decider.

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However, the England youngster made an indelible impression on the New Zealander, Gatland claiming that Smith would have a considerably meatier Test career of more than two caps if he was Irish, Scottish or Welsh. 

He also suggested Smith would use his experience of the 2021 Lions to return as a star in Australia in 2025, progress similar to that experienced in South Africa by first-choice midfielder Robbie Henshaw after he had learned the ropes on the 2017 trip to New Zealand. 

“Marcus Smith is going to be a superstar in the game,” enthused Gatland. “He is incredibly talented. If he was probably at any other of the four home nations he would definitely have been playing internationals by now and hopefully he gets that opportunity going forward because he has definitely got an incredible amount of talent.

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“There are probably some other players that haven’t been involved but their experience from this will hold them in really good stead for their national teams when they return home and if they do get picked in four years’ time for another Lions tour, that experience will be invaluable for them. 

“A really good example there, I thought Robbie Henshaw was excellent and he probably learned from the experience four years ago. That really brought him on, really improved him as a player in the last four years, and there are going to be a number of players in the same boat and you end up with that mixture of really experienced players, players in the middle and some youngsters who will really grow from being part of the Lions.  

“I just hope they [players such as Smith and Sam Simmonds] have learnt a lot from this tour, not so much from playing but from the other players around them in terms of their professionalism and the way that they train, all the extras they do, their recovery. They definitely would have benefited from that.”

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Gatland has delivered a 'superstar' assessment of Marcus Smith

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