Marcus Smith appears to have been born to play international rugby after a ruthless cameo against Tonga
SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Marcus Smith seems born to play international rugby after a ruthless cameo against Tonga and deserves to start against Australia … when England’s Fall Series really begins
- England were hugely impressive against Tonga, but much tougher tests await
- The fall series only really starts in earnest this week against Australia
- Eddie Jones must start firing midfielder duo Henry Slade and Manu Tuilagi
- Coach should pitch Smith early on to test him against bigger opponents
England delivered on almost every locker that was asked of them against Tonga, but their fall series only really starts in earnest this week against Australia.
We’ll know a lot more about New England this time next week, so let’s be patient a bit longer.
What we already know is that there is new attacking energy, that box kicks will only be used sparingly and that with Henry Slade and Manu Tuilagi shooting in midfield, England will pose a greater threat than at any time since the World Cup. . . It’s a good start.
Marcus Smith deserves to start against Australia after ruthless cameo against Tonga
Smith slipped effortlessly into the Gun XV and would look like he was born to play international rugby.
We also know that Marcus Smith slipped effortlessly into the Gun XV and would look like he was born to play international rugby.
Several 10 Englishmen would have cashed money against a brave but weakened side of Tonga, but none would have done so with the same flair and precision as Smith.
England full-backs will love playing away from it. They’ll stand on tiptoe and fight for pole position on his shoulder because if you’re on Smith’s shoulder you’re going to get a lot of scoring passes.
Now we learn that Owen Farrell did not have Covid, so it turns into a straightforward shootout between the captain and Smith for the starting job on Saturday. I’ve always argued that it should come down to this, with the possibility that George Ford enters the equation as well, if he continues in good shape with Leicester.
Under no circumstances should Eddie Jones disturb the Tuilagi / Slade axis in the center. A 12-year-old Farrell commitment pick runs the risk of taking away much of England’s power behind the scrum. Eddie should bite the bullet and make his selection, although frankly I’d be very comfortable with anyone
This week will be a close decision between the proven warrior Farrell, who has played exceptionally well at 10 in the past with Manu and Slade as his centers, and the flamboyantly talented Smith. However, what we should probably keep in mind this week is that we are not talking about a Six Nations game or the World Cup; it’s an international fall game and now it’s time to try a few things.
Eddie Jones must not disturb the axis of Manu Tuilagi (pictured) and Henry Slade in the middle
Tuilagi’s Test career has been ruined by injuries, but he can still be a great figure heading into the next World Cup.
Can Smith run a great game against world-class opponents right from the start? Watching a high-impact game in Paris on Saturday night as France beat Argentina was a reminder of how tough and brutal test rugby can be.
We don’t know for sure how Smith will fare in such an environment. I strongly suspect that he will thrive and be his brilliant self, but let’s back up our hunch with some evidence and then let the natural competition for places take its course.
It is not unlike the situation New Zealand faced a few years ago with Dan Carter in the final phase of his phenomenal Test career and a young Beauden Barrett uprooting trees. Both had their specific value to the team.
Making that tough decision at 10 will allow England to retain their main combination in the middle.
It has been a huge disappointment that the injury has cost Manu much of his testing career, but at the age of 30 he can still finish gloriously and be a great figure ahead of the World Cup in 2023.
The test with Australia is a good opportunity for coach Eddie Jones to try some things
When and if he finally wins that battle with injuries, his rugby career may skyrocket again, think Jonny Wilkinson, and I can only praise Manu for getting so fit again. There were times on Saturday when he looked like young Manu making his way through the Leicester wing as a teenager.
Hopefully the rugby gods can give in and give him a hot streak for the next two or three seasons. He deserves it and we miss him.
As for Slade, he’s classy, especially when he teamed up with Manu, but we haven’t always seen the best of him in test rugby, he’s got another level.
I’m excited to see how England can build on Tonga’s victory and push them to beat both Australia and South Africa in the next fortnight.