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Marcus Smith explains snubbing England U20s for a shot at an All Black

By Online Editors
Marcus Smith and Colin Slade

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Marcus Smith rejected the chance to direct England Under-20s’ bid to reclaim the junior world championship title due to his desire for a stiffer challenge against the Barbarians on Sunday.

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Smith is unlikely to play any role at this year’s World Cup unless Owen Farrell, George Ford and Danny Cipriani are struck by injury, but he could be selected in Eddie Jones’ initial training squad.

To prove he has what it takes to be considered a fringe contender for Japan 2019, the 20-year-old Harlequins fly-half must thrive opposite All Black Colin Slade, who is part of a Barbarians starting XV containing 478 caps.

“I had a call last week from England saying this opportunity was available,” said Smith ahead of the non-cap international at Twickenham.

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“I spoke long and hard with my family and decided it was one opportunity I couldn’t miss. It was all my decision. I am massively excited for the weekend.

“It was down to the fact that it was a senior England opportunity at Twickenham against the Barbarians, who are obviously packed with superstars. It’s going to be unbelievable.”

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Jim Mallinder, the RFU’s pathway performance coach who has taken on the role of preparing the England XV for a tricky annual fixture, welcomes Smith’s availability.

“It’s been decided that he will play against the Barbarians, which is really exciting,” Mallinder said.

“Marcus has already done an under-20s world championships, so the view was let’s have a look at him against an international XV, which will clearly be a level up for him. We’ll see where he goes from there.”

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England XV starters
15 Simon Hammersley (Newcastle Falcons)
14 Piers O’Conor (Bristol Bears)
13 Joe Marchant (Harlequins)
12 Johnny Williams (Newcastle Falcons)
11 Josh Bassett (Wasps)
10 Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
9 Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints)

1 Ross Harrison (Sale Sharks)
2 Tom Dunn (Bath Rugby)
3 Ehren Painter (Northampton Saints)
4 Elliott Stooke (Bath Rugby)
5 Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks) captain
6 Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins)
7 Ben Curry (Sale Sharks)
8 Teimana Harrison (Northampton Saints, 5 caps)

Finishers
16 Tommy Taylor (Wasps, 1 cap)
17 Beno Obano (Bath Rugby)
18 Paul Hill (Northampton Saints, 5 caps)
19 Will Spencer (Leicester Tigers)
20 Tom Ellis (Bath Rugby)
21 Ben White (Leicester Tigers)
22 Callum Sheedy (Bristol Bears)
23 Ben Loader (London Irish)

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