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Mark McCall's salty reply when asked about Farrell-Smith 'rivalry'

By Liam Heagney

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Saracens boss Mark McCall seemed to take exception at his weekly club media briefing to the suggestion that rising Harlequins star Marcus Smith is now a rival of Owen Farrell in the England set-up. A mid-tour call up for the Lions following his first two capped appearances for England, Smith was included along with Farrell in Eddie Jones’ 45-man squad that assembled in London last Sunday for a mini-training camp ahead of the autumn internationals. 

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With the 22-year-old Smith now generally viewed as potentially being the next big thing in English rugby, there have been some doubts about what the future might hold for 30-year-old skipper Farrell, whose form for England in the 2021 Six Nations and on the recent Lions tour wasn’t up to his usual top quality standard.  

However, the way this situation was presented to McCall irked him when speaking ahead of this weekend’s Premiership trip by Saracens to Leicester.   

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“Owen was in the (England) squad but he came back from the Lions tour probably in the position where he has not been in in his entire career, where he was dropped from a matchday 23, and he has obviously got a new rival on the horizon with Marcus Smith for England,” probed a journalist at the briefing. “Have you seen a different side to him since he sort of came back into the (Saracens) camp and what are you expecting from him this season?”

McCall quickly fastened onto the suggestion that Smith, the new England arrival, was now viewed as a Test level rival of the long-serving Farrell. “Just on your point about Marcus, I don’t necessarily see that as a rivalry because the 60-odd games that Eddie has been head coach of England, I think Owen has played No10 very few times. 

He has been picked at inside centre most of the time so I am not necessarily sure that is Owen’s competition, to be honest. You will probably have to ask Eddie about that. But no, we have got a very motivated player. He is always motivated but we have a very hungry Owen Farrell back in the camp which is a great thing. 

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“He is the captain of our club, he did a great job for us at the end of last season to steer us in the right direction at the end of the Championship season and he is champing at the bit to get back.”

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Mark McCall's salty reply when asked about Farrell-Smith 'rivalry'

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