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The Owen Farrell verdict on Fin Smith as Saracens prepare for Saints

By Liam Heagney
Saracens' Owen Farrell tackles Northampton's Fin Smith earlier this season (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Saracens skipper Owen Farrell has given his verdict on the progress of Fin Smith, the rookie out-half who has blossomed this season at Northampton and gone on to make his Test debut with England.

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The post-Rugby World Cup decision by the 32-year-old Farrell to take a Test rugby sabbatical resulted in the 22-year-old Smith getting selected for the Guinness Six Nations and he appeared off the bench behind the starting George Ford in the February games versus Italy and Scotland before Marcus Smith recovered from his injury.

Fin Smith is now set to tour Japan and New Zealand with England next month with Farrell, in contrast, packing his bags for his switch to the Top 14 and a move to Racing 92. In the meantime, their paths will cross this Friday night at Franklin’s Gardens in the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals.

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Ahead of that play-off, Farrell acknowledged the progress Smith has made since making the No10 shirt at the Saints his own following the exit of Dan Biggar to Toulon. This season he has started in 14 of his 16 top-flight appearances while also being a starter in all seven of his club’s Investec Champions Cup games.

“He has obviously come on leaps and bounds this year,” enthused Farrell. “He took over the reins at the back end of last year and has accelerated everything he has been doing. He was obviously a fantastic player last year and he has really kicked on.

Fixture
Gallagher Premiership
Northampton
22 - 20
Full-time
Saracens
All Stats and Data

“He is nice and relaxed when he plays the game. He is a relaxed character from what I know of him but he is not relaxed in terms of sitting back. He’s relaxed in his nature but wants to be at the front of everything. It’s a good mix.

“He has had some big moments this year, drop goals and things in the European Cup away at Thomond Park which are always good moments to be involved in.

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“He and George Furbank have been key in how the attack in terms of playing right at the line, being able to show and go themselves, being able to bring defenders onto them, and playing people through holes.

“That’s probably kicked on further this year. They always seem to be in the fight so yeah, he has come on, he has come on really well.”

This Friday’s first versus fourth on the table semi-final was confirmed on May 18 when Saracens were ambushed at home in London by Sale, the 10-20 defeat seeing them relinquish their hold on second place and what would have been a home semi-final against Bath.

Saracens last visited Franklin’s Gardens on March 29, a match they lost 30-41. “They have been the best team all year so far,” said Farrell about Northampton. “I thought they looked a real together team. They look like they believe in what they are doing.

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“They have fought on both fronts this year, which has been a testament to them. They have looked hard to beat. We found it hard when went there last time and it makes for a good challenge.

“They move the ball well, defend for each other, defend together. They are a good attacking team. They are tough to open up in the way they defend and the set-piece is a part of that as well. So that is why they have been on top so far this year.”

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