What Nick Evans thought of Eddie Jones' Marcus Smith assessment
Eddie Jones believes Marcus Smith will only realise his full potential in his “late twenties” but Harlequins attack coach Nick Evans thinks his mercurial outside half is already operating at a stratospheric level.
Evans is preparing the reigning Gallagher Premiership champions to face the intensely physical challenge posed by current leaders Leicester on Sunday when Smith, 22, will be up against out of favour George Ford, the 77-times capped England outside half.
Jones said in his new book about Smith: “Marcus is probably only going to be at his best in his late twenties. So we need to help him along this emotional journey and remind him about the journeys taken by some other great number 10s.”
Evans, who won 16 caps for New Zealand at outside half, said: “We are seeing it now and if he gets any better – bloody hell! I would like to think he has an unbelievable ceiling even if he has one. The sky is the limit and he is very self aware of areas where he can improve on and that includes his super strengths as well. He has still got an unbelievable appetite and desire to improve himself and has been brilliant coming back into the camp with Joe Marler, Joe Marchant and Alex Dombrandt.
“Marcus will always have this desire to improve and he will get better and better the more he is exposed to international level.”
While Ford is seen as the best tactical kicking outside half in the Premiership, Evans warns against underestimating the Leicester player’s threat with ball in hand adding: “Don’t discount George Ford’s ability to run an attacking game. I think he has a fantastic skills set and I remember playing against him in the final in 2012 and he sees the pitch well. He has so much time because he manages his depth brilliantly. His attacking ability is underrated.
“It will be a fascinating battle and one that Marcus is looking forward to.”
Evans expects “an unbelievable challenge” from Leicester who are unbeaten under Steve Borthwick and will attempt to take the game to Quins through their pack of forwards. “Their power game and set piece is very good,” added Evans. “They have a fantastic half back combination around their kicking game and they put teams under a lot of pressure.
“We have a massive challenge and a lot of that revolves around physicality and we will struggle if we don’t get that aspect of the game right. We have talked about getting our mentality right and they are top of the league for a reason and we see this as an opportunity to bounce back from last week (loss to London Irish) and every game in this competition is competitive and none more so than when you go to Leicester.
“They are a quality outfit and you expect someone like Steve (Borthwick) to make sure their set piece right and he has brought that mentality of Leicester of old back. We are going to test ourselves against the best team in the competition and we always back ourselves and we have to create scenarios with the ball where we put them under stress and put our game on the park. When you play the top teams you only get two or three chances and we have to be good enough to take them. It will be a fascinating game.”
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