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The 'massive' Marcus Smith asset that Owen Farrell really admires

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Halden Krog/AFP via Getty Images)

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England skipper Owen Farrell has spoken with effusive praise about his new Test team contemporary Marcus Smith, the 22-year-old who debuted during the summer series and was then called up by Warren Gatland to join Farrell and co with the Lions in South Africa. The 30-year-old Farrell has yet to play at Test level with the newcomer who is eight years his junior. 

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However, the expectation now is that Smith, a Premiership title winner last June with Harlequins, will be the starting England No10 next month with Farrell outside him in the No12 channel following the omission of George Ford, the long-time starting out-half, from the latest squad chosen by Eddie Jones. 

Smith isn’t a complete stranger to Farrell. They even shared a room together during one of the occasions in the past when Jones used to invite Smith along to England training so that he could get a feel of the environment as a youngster. But Smith is now included with the view to becoming the next long-serving England No10 and Farrell, who needs just one more appearance to become an England and Lions Test level centurion, is liking what he is seeing from the upcoming half-back.

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“It’s his passion for the game that you can see oozes out of him,” said Farrell on the morning of England’s second day at their preparation camp in Jersey ahead of the November matches versus Tonga, Australia and South Africa.

“You can see even when he scored at the weekend (for Harlequins) he loves scoring, he loves doing well for his team and he is really enjoying playing at the minute so he wears his heart on his sleeve as it looks when the game comes around. That is a massive asset to have, the immense passion he has got for the game.

“He is obviously a massive talent and a very exciting player. We have worked together before. He has been in camp before when he was a bit younger. Shared a room together and things like that before in the past and it was good to get to know him a bit better over the summer (with the Lions).

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“He is a brilliant lad and he is not just a very talented player but a proper student of the game. That sounds a bit cliched but I mean he is really bothered about getting better, he is really bothered about understanding the game more and he loves chatting about rugby. That made it easy for me to get on with him.

“He seems like he is confident because it seems to me like he has done the work because he understands the game because he knows exactly what he wants to get out of it. When he speaks he speaks sense and that obviously helps your confidence and helps when it comes to playing in a position that he does and he is obviously doing that really well at the minute. 

“I know me and George played together for a long time but we were constantly chatting. That is why I said we had a good understanding and Marcus seems that he likes doing that anyway, he likes talking about rugby, he likes to understand the game, he likes to prepare the best he possibly can and that for such a talented player who can unlock a game himself is obviously a brilliant balance to have. 

“He is someone that can unlock a game himself but has got a brilliant eye for how to make a team work as well. That sort of balance you want to make sure he keeps and he has got the attitude that will do that for hopefully a long time.  I’m happy to help wherever. Marcus is someone who loves talking rugby, loves chatting about the game, loves trying to understand the game a bit better hopefully and if I can help him do that in any way possible I would love to.”

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Asked if Smith had any bad habits when they shared an England room together, Farrell quipped: “None that I can say here, no. I’m joking. He’s a brilliant roommate. He’s a nice lad.”

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