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Owen Farrell's verdict on Marcus Smith, his new England partner

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Owen Farrell can’t wait to finally play a Test match with Marcus Smith following the many months of hype about the pair playing together for England in the Autumn Nations Series. Smith burst on the Test scene during the summer series under Eddie Jones and with George Ford having fallen down the pecking order, the path is clear for the international level rookie to pair up with the seasoned Farrell. 

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Jones had hoped to give this new 10/12 combination the first outing versus Tonga last weekend but that plan was scuppered by Smith being unable to train fully until Friday, by which stage Farrell had been pulled from the team after he tested positive for Covid, a result later proven to be a false positive. 

With Farrell back at the team hotel, Smith came off the England bench to guide them to a comprehensive 69-3 drubbing of the Tongans with a late scoring flourish. However, both players are now in harness and ready to take on the Wallabies this Saturday from the start at Twickenham in what will be their first time playing together at Test level.    

“Marcus runs the attack,” said Farrell when asked how things were shaping up with England alongside the Harlequins talisman. “He has been brilliant so far. He has been playing unbelievably well and he has come in here and put his stamp on it. He has been running the show in terms of attack. Obviously, he was disappointed to pick up a bit of a niggle last week but he has been flying this week in training. 

“He is a fantastic player and he has been showing that for a good while now. It has been good working together in camp. We have worked together before and to build up a bit more of a relationship over the last few weeks has been good. Now we are looking forward to putting it out there on the field. 

“It’s not up to me (to help Marcus), I am here if Marcus needs me. Hopefully, I can help him but we will see. He has got a brilliant head on his shoulders anyway. He loves his rugby, he loves chatting about rugby, loves the game so I enjoy talking to him about that sort of stuff. It has only been good from where I have seen it.”

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With Ellis Genge joining Joe Marler in getting ruled out to face the Wallabies due to Covid, Farrell reflected on his own situation last weekend where he was ruled out of the match versus Tonga before being allowed to come out of isolation after it was determined that his test result was a false positive.   

“I had a bit of it last week. It is very disappointing as an individual, especially having to isolate and be on your own. You can go through different emotions. But as a team, we had to go through the testing this morning [Friday] which thankfully is all good so far and now we are preparing as normal and hopefully, we can make sure when Ellis is watching at home he sees a good team performance.

“I was excited last week to be back at Twickenham in front of 80,000 people. I was buzzing to play in front of it all week and then to not have the chance was disappointing but with all the testing that was going on in the background, I knew I stood a chance for this week so I am thankful that I am here. 

“It wasn’t too bad when I was watching it. I was probably a bit disappointed beforehand obviously that I was missing a Test match, especially being back at home in from of 80,000 people for the first time in a long time. But during the game I was enjoying it, enjoying watching the lads putting it out there on the field.

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“It [the disruption] is a little bit frustrating. It’s more frustrating if you are the one that has had the test that is positive but at the same time it is part of what we are doing at the moment, we have got to be able to deal with it, we have got to be able to adapt and so far the lads have been brilliant at that. You saw it last week and now twice this week. We’re looking forward to showing that it is not touching us in terms of our mentality hopefully.”

Saturday is set to be Farrell’s 100th Test match appearance (93 England games and six for the Lions so far), but he will leave the milestone celebrations to Maro Itoje, who is making his 50th appearance for England. “He will lead it out,” said Farrell when asked what the pre-match plan is. 

“I didn’t celebrate my 50th cap with the other Test matches in it, it was always England. So that’s how we have been looking at it here. Maro has got his 50th cap for England this week which is an achievement that we will celebrate, so looking forward to doing that.”

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