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'They were stealing my money': Smith's tongue-in-cheek Wales story

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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New England talisman Marcus Smith has tongue-in-cheek quipped that Dan Biggar and his fellow Wales players “were stealing his money” when playing cards with him on the Lions tour in South Africa last year. Smith was a mid-tour call-up by Warren Gatland and ahead of the upcoming England Guinness Six Nations clash with the Welsh at Twickenham on February 27, the 23-year-old spoke about the excellent rapport he built on tour with Biggar, an out-half who is ten years older.   

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“He is a brilliant guy, Dan Biggar,” said Smith on Wednesday after England assembled in London for their fallow week training camp ahead of the eagerly awaited round three showdown with Wales. “I remember he invited me to my first game of cards in South Africa which was nice. He didn’t have to do that. All the Welsh boys invited me to that. 

“He was very accommodating, very welcoming, brought me up to speed very quickly with the playbook and the way they wanted to play out there. He always greeted me with a smile on his face and we worked really closely together on our kicking and I learned a lot about the game through watching with him and Finn (Russell) and Owen (Farrell) as well.”

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Asked what the outcome of that ice-breaking card game was, a smiling Smith quipped: “I lost, I think I lost a tenner. They were stealing my money.” 

Both England and Wales got their seasons back on track last weekend with respective round two victories in Rome and Cardiff following first weekend setbacks for each team in Edinburgh and Dublin. The game on Saturday week in London will be Smith’s first experience as a player facing the Welsh at Test level but he knows all about the rivalry between the two countries.  

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“I have been very grateful, I have been brought up in a rugby-mad family,” he explained. “My dad is an extremely proud Englishman and he always told me how big this game was. So yeah, for me if I get the opportunity to play in that game I know how much it will mean to not only my dad but every other proud English fan in the country. It is our next game so it is our most important game because it is hopefully going to put us in a better position on the Six Nations table.”

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England are currently second, three points leaders France with three rounds of matches to play in a tournament that will conclude with Eddie Jones’ team taking on the French in Paris on the night of March 19. 

“It has been a brilliant tournament, it is wide open at the minute,” reckoned Smith. “Obviously, France are unbeaten still and they have got a few tough games coming up. It is all to play for, it’s wide open and we are massively excited about the next few weeks. Hopefully, we can continue to win and put ourselves in the best position to win it.”

Just seven caps into his new career as a Test-playing out-half, Smith was very much on the outside looking in this time last year as he was still months away from the July debut he was to make for England at Twickenham against the USA. Can he remember what he was like during the 2021 Six Nations and how has his relationship with England boss Jones progressed in recent weeks with Smith now the No10 playing in his first championship campaign?

“I was watching it as an avid England fan, desperate to see them do well. I can’t really remember what I was thinking of, I was probably head stuck into playing well for Quins and trying to push Quins up the table and trying to add value in any way I could on and off the field. I can’t really remember any details but I was definitely a massive supporter of England back then.

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“He [Jones] has been brilliant with me, he has pushed me, given me good feedback both from training down in Brighton to our first game in Scotland to the Italy week. Our dialogue has been very open even since the autumn and I am learning a lot from Eddie. He is pushing me to get me to where I want to get to in my career and where he wants to get this team.”

Can Smith offer an insight into those coach/player chats? “No, it’s between me and him but the main gist of it is, ‘Just keep working hard and keep enjoying my rugby’.” 

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