Six Nations key stars: Marcus Smith can truly unlock England’s potential
The 2023 Six Nations begins this weekend, and fans can expect another blockbuster Championship filled with sensational rugby, team tries and moments of individual brilliance.
In anticipation of the start of rugby’s greatest championship, Planet Rugby has a closer look at key players from each team.
Next up, it’s England star Marcus Smith.
The young talent was born in the Philippines and started playing rugby when he moved to Singapore at seven years old. Smith then moved to England when he was 13 and immediately shone in the school game.
He was brought into the Harlequins developmental program in 2016 before moving to the full-time academy in 2017, when he would make his debut for the club against London Irish in the Premiership.
Smith would thrive at Quins and has gone on to make over 100 appearances for the club. Intertwined with his growth at club level was representation for England at U18 and U20 levels.
The fly-half made his Test debut in 2021 against the United States and would feature off the bench predominantly that year before starting against South Africa in the autumn of that season.
Smith would earn a late call-up as injury cover for Finn Russell in the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2021, where he featured against the Stormers.
With Owen Farrell sidelined with injury, England relied on Smith for the 2022 Six Nations, which the young star managed magnificently for the most part.
Smith is an instinctively brilliant attacking player. His vision is outstanding, and his ability to kick the ball so very well out of hand and distribute with aplomb makes him a threat for any defensive line.
The playmaker also has a deceptive turn of pace and, in the free-flowing style of Quins, has produced some magical moments.
The 23-year-old has shown composure and game management with England but is yet to offer his game-beating best consistently.
Defence is Smith’s obvious weakness. At 1.70 metres and 82 kilograms, the fly-half does not offer much physicality, and opposition teams look for ways to exploit this in their structures and game plans.
The pivot is manful without the ball but you can’t beat genetics and, if you get him one-on-one with a big ball carrier, his channel can be breached.
Six Nations history
Smith performed well in the 2022 Six Nations, taking on the playmaker mantel from the injured Farrell and doing so brilliantly, scoring a try en route to 17 points in the opening-round defeat against Scotland.
He would score another try against Italy and kick well for the remainder of the Championship whilst being restricted on attack to some extent by Jones’ tactical approach.
England secure the bonus point ✅ #ITAvENG #GuinnessSixNations pic.twitter.com/WWWdI9MKHe
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 13, 2022
The Quins man would end the Six Nations as the top points scorer with 71.
Why Smith is crucial for England
There is great debate about how new head coach Steve Borthwick will field his team with the Smith-Farrell axis not firing under Jones.
The inclusion of Nick Evans in the backroom staff is fascinating as he extracted the best and most attacking rugby out of Smith at Harlequins.
With Evans’ understanding of Smith and given how the star’s attacking potential was underused, it could be a very exciting Six Nations for the talented playmaker.
Farrell is a sound option at 10, but one cannot ignore the excitement around a free-flowing Smith in the England fly-half jersey.
READ MORE: The greatest line-up in the history of the Six Nations