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Scott Robertson's take on Marcus Smith and the England players who impressed

By Ben Smith
Marcus Smith of England is tackled by Damian McKenzie of the New Zealand All Blacks during the International Test Match between New Zealand All Blacks and England at Forsyth Barr Stadium on July 06, 2024 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson has offered his view on the standout England players from the first Test as well as Marcus Smith after his missed goals proved pivotal.


The 25-year-old flyhalf finished two from five off the tee with a number of makeable mid-range shots from roughly 30-40 metres out sailing wide. With the final score 16-15, goal kicking proved to be the difference in the end.

Robertson was reluctant to offer advice to Borthwick on whether Smith should be selected for the second Test at Eden Park but did say No 10s need time at this level.

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“That’s one for Steve [Borthwick], I’ve got my own team to worry about,” Roberston joked when asked if Marcus deserves another run.

Smith was the first choice No 10 in 2022 starting most of England’s Tests that year but lost the role to George Ford in 2023 under Borthwick.

Back in the saddle in 2024, Smith now has 25 starts for England, three of which came at fullback.

The All Black coach pointed to history that showed why Smith should be persisted with.

“There’s a lot on your plate and it takes time to understand Test footy and the pressure of it,” Robertson said on No 10s at this level.

“History shows that you know, it’s time on field on your feet learning a couple of lessons.


“Marcus is a hell of a player and will be better for last night.”


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On the players who impressed Robertson in the first Test, he singled out Kiwi blindside Chandler Cunningham-Smith and halfback Alex Mitchell as outstanding performers.

Cunningham-Smith made his presence felt at the breakdown while Mitchell’s attacking skills caught his eye.

“I thought Chandler, he’s just such a heavy body with the ball. I thought Alex was great when he got quick ball around the base of the ruck,” Robertson said.

“A couple of doubles [pumps] and faints, handing guys off the ball into space. They were sharp, off the top of my head [those two] were sharp.”



On the areas where England surprised the All Blacks, it was the trio of Cunningham-South, Sam Underhill and Ben Earl who made life difficult on the ground.

“I just think the breakdown with and without the ball, how hard they were at the ball,” he said.

“They’ve got some great operators, they’ve got good low loosies and they just attack it so quickly.

“They get their hands on the ball you know. Our guys try and counter the ruck but their efficiency to read and anticipate is pretty special.

“And like I said the line speed, they flew at you.”


All Black second row Brodie Retallick joins Jim Hamilton for the latest episode of Walk the Talk, touching on life in Japan, RWC 2023 and the future of All Black rugby. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV


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Karlos 14 days ago

He moved to NZ aged 4 and having never touched a rugby ball. He moved back to England over 15 years later, 100% a kiwi and product of the NZ rugby system. Almost as kiwi as Stoksey or Gatland

chris 14 days ago

Chandler Cunningham-South is English btw…

nunya 14 days ago

For heaven’s sake 😂. Again with the “Kiwi Chandler Cunningham South” rubbish. CCS is no more a kiwi than I am Chinese because I went to school in HK in the 80s. He was born in Sidcup to English parents. Whenever an English player so much as goes on holiday somewhere the rugby press have to lead articles with the descriptor of wherever he went. “Norwegian convert Farrell, who once visited Oslo on a school trip in 2002..” Meanwhile, never a mention of the Englishness of dozens of genuinely English players playing for Wales and Scotland. Bore off

NeilB_Denver 14 days ago

As Dmac also missed a few kicks, I think it’s fair to say the conditions in the poly-tunnel greenhouse probably contributed. Smith will start for England at Eden. He was at the heart of a lot of the stuff England did well.

Expect another close game this weekend. Borthwick and the players will be desperate to get a win. England’s problems at prop are well documented, but I also think England have a lack depth on the bench. There was a discernible loss of dynamism in Dunedin when Borthwick emptied the bench.

I’d wager he’ll give the players more free-reign to run it more this week rather than box kicking. I think he’ll also try and get Feyi-Waboso on the ball a bit more.

Last game of what has been a long season for a lot of these England players and I hope they have enough left in the tank to show everyone what they can do.

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Wonton 2 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

One game against Fiji is not enough to show that a player is ready to play the likes of South Africa. Spreading the ball wide too much increases the risk of turnovers and we turned the ball over 20 times against Fiji which is a lot more than what we did in the two England tests. We actually turned the ball over the same amount of times (20) against England in the 2019 semi final which we lost. Fiji didn’t make us pay for those turnovers but other teams will. In the 2nd test against England this year we had 100% success rate on attacking rucks. That’s the first time the AB’s have achieved this since the 2019 opening game of the RWC against South Africa. South Africa won last years RWC and Jesse Kriel did not pass once. The days of the Conrad Smith type centre might be over. Also Conrad Smith debuted in 2004 but he did not become an incumbent until Nonu did also in 2008. As for Rieko Ioane he and Jordie Barrett put in some very strong midfield hits in the 2nd test forcing turnovers several times. Rieko Ioane hasn’t played wing in years. If Proctor is moved to 13 then the best I think Ioane can hope for is an impact player off the bench. He does not have the aerial game of Caleb Clarke or the workrate of Tele’a for 11 and going to be selected over Jordan at 14. However its much too early to replace Rieko with Proctor. Rieko was excellent in the knock out rounds of the RWC. All Proctor has to show on his test CV is a good game against Fiji.

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Nick 3 hours ago
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Its almost like you read my comment on the other site on sunday morning Nick - you flagged all the same examples! 😝 Frost was motm for mine. That eg in the 56th minute in particular impressed me, nothing but sheer effort and a dupont/smith-like tracking line behind the D. Surely an effort like that from frost marries perfectly with that quote from schmidt at the start of the year about effort and work rate being 70-80% and talent is just the icing on top… What it also showed though was the players not making that effort, in that example he goes past both valetini and ikitau, and in the eg that finished with valetini scoring hunter paisami barely breaks a canter to support the break. And then there was the chase from wright and lancaster for the 2nd georgian try! One blemish - at kickoff I saw frost miss or get bumped off a few tackles and I felt like I saw what has been holding his selection back. I think because he is so big and is trying to get low to tackle, he seems to dip his head and ends up losing his balance or ability to adjust and ends up missing or making a soft hit. I think in the first 2 minutes he misses or makes 2-3 soft tackles, but you could clearly see the work rate and desire! He (the pod) also missed a kick restart or two? Also very happy to see harry wilson back in the fold. What impressed me from him wasn’t all the usual stuff he is known for, but all the other bits that usually let him down. He looked surprisingly good in the air at lineout time, physical at the breakdown, and good in the maul peeling off 3 georgians for one of the maul tries. Id have frost, skelton, wright as my 4-6 with LSL and wilson on the bench. i’m once again unconvinced by tom wirght - he was very good game 1, but game 2-3 he was back to more rocks than diamonds. There is no real other player to usurp him really so he stays in the team for now but I think Joe should put kellaway wherever he serves the team best and wright can be moved around him. Did donno do enough to overtake noah? My gut says no. They clearly had a plan to attack more so he looked better in that regard because he just had more opportunity, but they looked better off tate (who had a v good game also) then they did off donno.

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