Marcus Smith - Not the normal road to rugby

England are thrilled to have young superstar Marcus Smith at the helm for the future. The fly half is the crucial part of Eddie Jones future.

Not the normal road to rugby

Marcus Smith is a rugby player who did not take the same road to rugby as many of his peers. When he was born in the Philippines in 1999 to a British father and a Filipina mother, not many would have expected him to become a superstar of English rugby.

While the Philippines is not known for its rugby, the sport is much more common Singapore where Smith and his family moved when he was seven. He joined Centaurs Rugby, a club only formed in 2002. His fascination began to grow with the sport as he remembers watching the Lions tour of South Africa in 2009 with his father.

Thankfully for his rugby career, Smith moved to England in 2012 and received a sports scholarship to attend Brighton College. It was here that his rugby performances began to bring some attention. It is the same college that current and former Harlequins players Jordan Turner-Hall, Ross Chisholm and James Chisholm went to.

Smith would become captain of the colleges first XV and competed at the St Joseph Rugby Festival. He became the player of the tournament, an award won by England internationals Jonathan Joseph, Lewis Ludlam and Zach Mercer. During this time with the school he got attention from Premiership team Harlequins who had recruited players from Brighton College before.

At the age of 14, Smith had a successful trial with the club which went very well and four years later he joined the club full time after he finished school. Around the same time, Smith was getting international attention and made his first England U16 appearance in April 2015 in a win against Wales.

Smith continued to play for the younger England teams and was involved in the U20s Six Nations Championship as well as scoring his first try for the under 18 team against Ireland a couple months later. Despite playing for the U18s and U20s, he took part in a training session with the senior squad in May of 2017 at the age of 18 before he had even made his Harlequins debut.

First team Debuts

It was not long until Smith was started to be handed more responsibility in both his domestic and international team. As Harlequins headed into the 2017-18 season, they were dealing with the retirement of legendary fly half Nick Evans and still looking for his long term replacement.

So Smith was pushed into a starting place for the first round of the season against London Irish as back up Demetri Catrakilis had been disappointing in training. Despite a 39-29 loss to London Irish, Smith impressed in his first team debut in the 49 minutes that he played.

Just three weeks after his Harlequins debut, Smith was named in the 33 man England training squad ahead of the autumn internationals, but he was treated as an apprentice player and did not play for his country in those autumn nations. Smith was also part of the training squad for the 2018 Six Nations.

His first season with Harlequins was a great individual season despite Harlequins finishing tenth. Smith was the third highest points scorer in the competition and looked to be one of the brightest stars of the premiership. The youngster continued to put in good performances for Harlequins despite his young age.

These performances in the next season continued to impress as Smith helped to take Harlequins back into Champions Cup rugby as they finished fifth in the 2018-19 season as he was once again third highest points scorer in the competition. He was starting to build an exciting young team with Harlequins.

These performances meant that Smith declined joining the 2019 U-20 team and instead made his non-cap debut for England on the 2nd of June 2019 alongside teammates Joe Marchant and Alex Dombrandt. Smith scored 21 points through the boot on England debut.

The 2019-20 season was a highly disrupted one as Harlequins finished sixth on the season with Smith the second highest scorer. His continued performances still did not lead him to his full England debut with Eddie Jones preferring Owen Farrell and George Ford at fly half.

Becoming a Superstar

The 2020-21 season was his breakout campaign as he became a superstar. After a difficult start to the season, Harlequins went on a spectacular run to the Premiership title in big thanks to the top points scorer of the competition Marcus Smith, who scored almost 100 points more than second place AJ MacGinty.

In the final, Smith nailed four conversions as Quins won the title as heavy outsiders in a tense but exciting final. This was the catalyst for Smith to be pushed into the England team, making his full test debut against the United States, scoring 13 points in the win.

Just a month after his full England debut, he was called into the British and Irish Lions squad due to an injury to Finn Russell. He became the least experienced member of the Lions squad and made his debut against the Stormers, lining up opposite Tim Swiel who was Smith’s teammate when he made his Harlequins debut.

Despite this, Smith did not play in any of the tests as the Lions lost the series 2-1. In the Autumn, Smith was used in a smaller role with England before an injury to Owen Farrell turned him into the orchestrator of the attack which beat world champions South Africa thanks to Smiths 79th minute winning penalty. It showed Smith was ready to be England’s main man.

He stepped into that role in the Six Nations in 2022 as Farrell was again injured. He started at 10 and scored all of England’s 17 points as they lost the Calcutta Cup. Despite a disappointing campaign, Smith was impressive in attack and finished as the highest point scorer in the competition.

Smith will have been disappointed to lose to Saracens in the semi final of Harlequins Premiership defence. Smith is still an international superstar and it looks likely that he will be a crucial part of England’s summer tour of Australia as well as any success in the future.

Playing Style

One of the reasons why Smith is so successful is just how brilliant he is in attack. It begins with his footwork. Smith has perfected the goose step and can breeze past any defender with ease. It has helped to spring many different successful attacks, with Harlequins producing spectacular tries almost every season.

He pulls the strings for any attack thanks to his passing range. One of the reasons Smith is so good in attack is his passing. Smith can get the ball wide with brilliant speed thanks to his pinpoint passing that has helped Quins wingers Louis Lynagh and Cadan Murley become try scoring machines.

There are some criticisms of his goal kicking which has at times left a lot to be desired. It is one of the reasons why Smith is likely to play alongside Farrell for the summer tour of Australia. Smith is a good kicker but not as consistent as you might want from your starting fly half.

What will help Smith is that he has the best coaching with Owen Farrell alongside him this summer. One of Marcus Smith’s idols is England World Cup winning fly half Johnny Wilkinson who has coached Smith in kicking sessions in the past that has helped him to nail some clutch kicks.

It is odd as his kicking in attack is brilliant. Smith has perfected the chip through a defence as well as finding the 22 in attack to put the opposition under pressure. Smith is able to nail these sorts of kicks despite rush defences and he is incredibly tricky to defend.

In defence, Smith is the target for the opposition. But he has always showed commitment in tackling that is what coaches and fans are looking for at the highest level. His defence certainly is not enough of a weakness to be taken advantage of on the international level.

What does the future hold for Marcus Smith?

Marcus Smith almost undoubtably looks like the future of England rugby. Alongside a young core featuring Freddie Steward, Tom Curry and Harry Randall. There are still a lot of questions about the future of the England team, particularly with the poor performances over the last couple years.

Smith will surely become the quarterback for the England team, as Eddie Jones looks to replicate the attacking success of Harlequins in the England team. With Owen Farrell over 30 and a long history of injuries, it makes sense that Smith will become the best player for England.

There are a lot of expectations of Marcus Smith due to his incredible play and success at such an early age. There will be a lot put on his young shoulders but he looks likely to be a brilliant player for Harlequins and England for a long time to come.

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