England prop Joe Marler on 'gobby' Marcus Smith who is constantly driving standards for club and country

Marler has backed Smith to perform from full-back in England's World Cup quarter-final against Fiji
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Back at the 2019 Rugby World Cup when Joe Marler and Dan Cole were paired together in a press conference, the front-row duo were certainly the centre of attention.

Their camaraderie and ‘banter’ made for entertaining content and while both remain big characters within the England camp, four years on, this time their media duties revolved around one of their teammates.

While reinstating Owen Farrell at fly-half and dropping George Ford to the bench for their World Cup quarter-final with Fiji grabbed the immediate headlines from England’s squad announcement, Steve Borthwick’s decision to deploy Marcus Smith at full-back was the other standout selection.

It is a bold move by Borthwick to opt for Smith over Leicester Tigers’ Freddie Steward, but the tactical basis of his decision - combined with his belief in the Harlequins star - means the No.15 jersey will be the 24-year-old’s in Marseille.

“I think he has played a lot of times for us at 15 over this last period of time through August and then into this World Cup,” Borthwick said. “He’s been coming off the bench in plenty of those games to finish and I think he is also now an experienced international rugby player, and I think this is the right team for what we need to do this weekend."

And Borthwick’s faith in Smith is something which club teammate Marler is also in agreement with.

Marcus is a big-match player. I am full of confidence in his ability to thrive on that stage, albeit in the 15 shirt, but I think to have the talent he has, I'm full of confidence he'll perform at the weekend,” Marler said.

It is hard to be dismissive of the sightings we have seen of Smith at 15 despite him being unproven in that position. Against Ireland in the World Cup warm-ups, his cameo was about the only plus point England could take away from Dublin but his electric performance against Chile is clearly something which Borthwick couldn’t overlook.

From Marler’s perspective, he has witnessed first-hand the rise of Smith, who will make just his second start at full-back on Sunday.

While some youngsters might be tepid and shy when they step into a senior team environment, Smith’s obsession to constantly drive standards was clear right from the very beginning.

“He had that [mentality] early on, even to the point where I thought “I’m going to have to say something to this guy, he's gobbing off at me,” Marler recalled. “‘I've been here 10 years and he's gobbing off at me as if "you've gotta be here, you've gotta get there," driving standards.

“I'm a little bit like.. are you? Then you realise he knows what he's talking about and the fact he had that confidence as a 17/18-year-old, that desire to be the best, he's managed to carry that on throughout his career so far, and he's done it consistently at club level. It's about now doing it consistently at international level and what better place to do that than starting in the quarter-final.

“For me, it took a little while [for Smith to earn Marler’s respect]. I was like, he's jumped up, entitled, little, private school kid and then when you realise how good he is at rugby and why he's doing what he's doing, I was like, ‘I'm going to listen to him because he's going to get us into positions where we can win more rugby games because he knows what he's talking about.”

Smith is one of the most exciting players for both club and country, but it is his relentless desire to hit the highest of standards which speaks volumes according to Marler.

“His [Smith’s] drive, he's obsessed with wanting to be the best every single day and that is infectious around the group and that's what stands out for me,” he added.

“It's in a similar way to Owen [Farrell] in their drives to be the best which raises the standards for the group or else you'll get left behind and I've been left behind many a time. You've gotta be up there, driving standards.”

And being on top of their game is something England will be striving for against Fiji on Sunday as they look to avenge the shock 30-22 loss they suffered at the hands of the Pacific Islanders back in August at Twickenham.

Since then though, Borthwick’s troops have risen from the ashes to reach another quarter-final and both Marler and Cole realise this could be the last World Cup they are a part of.

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Marler, 33, admitted he is probably one of “a big group” who know this might be their last dance on the biggest stage, and that will only act as a source of inspiration as England target another semi-final appearance.

"Previously I think I've taken [representing England] for granted and knowing that this is the last time I will get the opportunity to play in a World Cup quarter-final, to pull on that shirt, is a special feeling,” Marler said.

"We won’t be together again as a 33 [man squad]. Whether it is the young guys or the guys that are going to take this team forward for the next five or six years, we are all aware that we are not going to be the same 33.

"That factor can drive you through any game, or any campaign we’ve had. That is definitely a factor for us. The likes of Ben Youngs, Courtney Lawes, Danny Care, Coley – guys that have been together since we were 16, 17.

"We’ve got close bonds to motivate us and drive us on to make this last memory special. But that’s always been the case, really, because you never know when your last game is. You’ve got to make the most of what you can."