Marcus Smith says playing alongside Owen Farrell and George Ford ‘an honour’
Marcus Smith finished England’s World Cup rout of Chile in the same back line as Owen Farrell and George Ford – six years after rushing his A-level maths exam to train with his heroes.
England experimented by deploying all three of their fly-halves for the final half-hour of Saturday’s 71-0 victory in Lille that places them on the brink of qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Smith was operating in his new role of full-back while Ford stepped off the bench to form a creative axis with Farrell designed to run spirited but outclassed Chile off their feet.
For Smith it was a special moment after his first encounter with the duo came in May 2017 when he took part in England’s camp in his native Brighton, where he was studying as an 18-year-old.
“Those two have been really influential ever since I was invited to train with England when I was very young,” he said.
“I was very lucky that England went to Brighton College – I went to Brighton College – and I had to beg my teachers because when I heard that opportunity was available because I was desperate to take it.
“I rushed my maths exams so I could get on the field. I had my rugby socks on and I was ready to go. I got a B, I think. I’ll take that – maybe I rushed it too much!
To all be out there at the same time was an honour. It was a day I’ll never forget
“To be able to learn from the best two fly-halves in England was special for me. They’ve been really helpful to me.
“It was class to play with Owen and George against Chile. To have two guys who are unbelievably skilful inside, able to see space, and for me to have slightly more space in the outside channels was a pleasure.
“They managed to find me a few times and I really enjoyed running in the wider channels. To all be out there at the same time was an honour. It was a day I’ll never forget.”
Smith’s conversion from fly-half to full-back now spans four cameos as a replacement and 80 minutes against Chile and while a success to date, tougher assignments await in the form of Samoa and the quarter-finals.
The Harlequins magician insists he is happy to contribute in whatever role gets him on the field.
“It was class. I really enjoyed it. Playing 10, 15, where – I thoroughly enjoy being on the field,” Smith said.
“It doesn’t last forever so whenever I get the opportunity I’m going to try to make the most of it.”
Sharing star billing with Smith at Stade Pierre-Mauroy was Henry Arundell, the 20-year-old wing who equalled the England record of five tries scored in one match.
Arundell will join Racing 92 after the World Cup following the financial collapse of London Irish but despite playing for an overseas club he is expected to be available for selection in the Six Nations under the exceptional circumstances rule.
“Henry is a great finisher and he certainly makes things happen. That pace he has… I see the hard work he does on the training field – he’s a man who is determined to get better,” head coach Steve Borthwick said.
England now have their bye week and will not resume training until Thursday with players able to leave their camp in Le Touquet and meet family, although none will be returning home.
While allowed to depart France under tournament regulations, players must be available for drug testing and media commitments, thereby restricting their movement.
Some of Borthwick’s management team will return home briefly over the coming days, however.
“The coaches have the next few days off because the whole management team has worked alongside all the players very, very hard to this point. It’s important now they all have a few days break,” Borthwick said.
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