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The England verdict on how the Smith/Randall combination performed

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Luigi Mariani/LiveMedia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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Marcus Smith’s new Six Nations half-back partnership with Harry Randall has been given a seal of approval by England boss Eddie Jones. Beaten at Murrayfield last weekend with centurion scrum-half Ben Youngs playing the entire match versus Scotland, the decision was taken this week to start Randall in the round two match in Italy to see if his high tempo style was a suitable choice to liven up the visitors’ attack in tandem with Smith.   

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England came away with a five-try victory in which Jones made use of the Smith/Randall partnership for the opening 55 minutes, only withdrawing the Bristol scrum-half eleven minutes after the 44th-minute bonus point try was scored by Elliot Daly, and it was then left for Young to see out the win alongside Smith. 

It was the first time since the Summer Series wins last July over the USA and Canada that Smith had played at Test level with Randall, who missed the entire Autumn Nations Series through injury and was left rooted to the bench and unused last weekend in Edinburgh.

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Jones suggested he had enjoyed what he had seen from the pair but quipped it wouldn’t be until he had a couple of glasses of red wine later on Sunday night that his thoughts would turn to the future and ponder might Smith and Randall be the starting half-back partnership for the February 27 round three match at home to Wales.  

“I’ll have a think about that tonight, I’ll have a nice glass of red or maybe two and ponder the future,” he said in the aftermath of the 33-0 England success at the Stadio Olimpico. “I don’t have to do that now but I will definitely have a think about that tonight. We have got a training week next week, we will bring them in and start playing with the combinations for Wales.

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“They did well today, but it was in completely different conditions. That is like the fastest pitch we will play on in the Six Nations. Beautiful weather conditions. It was like a summer’s day so the ball was able to fizz around. As we know at Twickenham it is going to be a wet pitch, it is going to be more difficult to play like that.   

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“They made a really good start. There was a lot of pace on the ball early. The ruck ball was really quick and I thought they combined nicely, particularly Marcus took the ball to the line really well in patches and Harry added that little bit of zip-zip. 

“Look, nine and ten is about being brilliant at the basics, about doing the simple things really well over and over again and being absolute clear communicators on the field, Harry more so to the forwards and Marcus to the back rowers and the back and they are making a good and steady progress in both of those areas.”

Speaking specifically about Smith, who opened the scoring in Rome with a try and was voted player of the match by the sponsors, Jones added: “Look, there is no ceiling to how good he can be. If he keeps on wanting to get better, keeps having a learning mindset, he could be an absolutely outstanding player at Test level by the World Cup (in 2023) and that is pretty important to have a good ten.”

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