The 'Scotland brag' that England want Marcus Smith to silence
Eddie Jones has no concerns about the speculation that Scotland will get at Marcus Smith, the rookie England out-half, when the Guinness Six Nations gets going on Saturday at Murrayfield with a tasty Calcutta Cup encounter. The English coach is sure the Scots will come at the soon-to-be 23-year-old but he is backing his new talisman to emerge with flying colours in what will only be his sixth ever Test match.
England have been forced into making seven changes from the XV that started the win last time out in November versus the Springboks and they will take the field with a team containing seven players – including Smith – who have earned ten caps or less at Test level.
However, that inexperience doesn’t concern England boss Jones as he opted to leave the seasoned George Ford on the bench and instead surround the playmaking Smith with experienced players either side of him in Ben Youngs and Henry Slade.
“It’s always about judgment, what is the opportunity, is it the right time, it is the right field position and he is a good decision-maker,” suggested the England coach. “You have only got to see what he did against South Africa where against the best team in the world he was able to get us from our own 22 into their 22 to kick the goal and win the game.
“He made calculated decisions on when to move the ball, when to kick the ball, when to run the ball and he will do that again on Saturday. I’m sure they are going to come at him. Scotland brag about being able to get into the psychology of England, so let’s see on Saturday.
“We feel Marcus is ready to keep progressing his Test career. Every young ten starts off at this stage: there are doubts about their experience to handle the pressure situations. At some stage, they play a game bigger than they have ever played and it is all part of their learning curve. I have got no doubt Marcus has got the desire and the drive to be one of the best tens in the world and this game on Saturday will be an opportunity for him to continue his progress.
“We want to see him keep improving – and he is going to have some bad days. We understand that but we feel he has got the desire and the work ethic and he has definitely got talent. Talent is something we don’t have to debate. I don’t think anyone could debate that but talent doesn’t make you a great Test player. Desire and your work ethic does, and curiosity to keep learning, and he is huge ranking in all those areas so there is no reason why he can’t handle Saturday.
“He is stuck between someone who has played 112 caps [Youngs], and then Henry Slade and Elliot Daly who are both four and five Test season players. Elliot has got over 50, Henry is getting to 50, so he is not short of experience around him.”
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