Marcus Smith: 'Me and Faz get on really well on and off the field'

Marcus Smith started at fly-half in England's 23-29 loss to Scotland

Marcus Smith says he feels like himself in an England shirt despite losing to Scotland on the opening day of the Six Nations. 

“I felt good out there. I wasn’t thinking, I was in the game, the plan was so drilled into us, so practised that I wasn’t thinking out there. I felt good, we felt good as a team, but there were just a couple of moments where we need to keep our foot on the gas and put that team away because they are a good team,” he said assuredly after the 23-29 home defeat. 

In the face of having only 11 days as a team to prepare for the first game of the Six Nations and a new era with Steve Borthwick at the helm, clarity from the coaching team made the process smooth for the fly-half. 

“I felt fully clear going into the game. I felt our plan was fully engraved in us through the week. We’ve only had ten or so days together but we’ve made a good start and I felt good out there.

"I felt strong, I felt good, it’s only my third game back from injury so hopefully every week I am going to get better and more importantly the team will get better as well,” he commented. 

For the almost 24-year-old Harlequin, the changing of the guard in the coaching staff from a far from gleaming autumn provides a clean slate. 

He said: “It’s a new start for me. I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of years playing for England and I’m only early in my career so I’ll keep learning. It’s a massive step up from club rugby so I’ll learn as fast as I can and hopefully keep improving. I’m still young.”

Within the new-look coaching team familiar face from Harlequins, attack coach Nick Evans, provides Smith with an environment in the England camp where he is able to challenge and be challenged in equal measure. 

“Being able to work with Snap at this level is brilliant,” he said. 

“I’ve known him for a few years now and we get on really well. He challenges me to try things and learn new things, and I challenge him as well.

"We’ve got a good relationship. I felt myself out there. I got my hands on the ball but it just wasn’t enough. I’ll go back to the drawing board and work on it,” he added, speaking fondly about England’s attack coach for the Six Nations.

A further similarity between the time he spends wearing the historic quarters and the red rose, particularly with the recent addition of Evans to the latter, is the pace the team want to play at. 

“We try and get rapid ball. We talked about their breakdown threats and we need to up the ante and get the ball in and out of the ruck, away from the clustered bit as quickly as we can,” the England prodigy with 18 caps said. 

“Whether the shape is set or we'll just go in playing rugby, get the ball away from there and make decisions and test ourselves in training so that come the game we're comfortable playing at that pace. If we get to that pace we'll shock ourselves and we'll shock opposition,” he added.

In contrast, a familiarity from Harlequins that Smith has to go without while on international duty is his partnership with South African André Esterhuizen, who usually plays outside him. 

The connection created between the two after playing a myriad of games together is not yet one which has been established with English counterpart Owen Farrell.

Smith remains confident that there will be a simultaneous growth in the interconnectedness between the new look partnership the more game time they have together. 

“When I first started playing with Andre at Quins it took us 30 games, 40 games, so it’s one of them things, it’s spoken about a lot, but me and Faz get on really well on and off the field, and it’s not about us, it’s about us adding what we have to the team and getting the team in the right positions.

"I thought we made a decent start today but it wasn’t enough, and we’ll go back to the drawing board and play against a tough Italy next week, and we need to win,” he reflected. 

Standing at six foot four and weighing in at over 110 kilograms, Esterhuizen’s metrics are superior to that of the England captain when wearing the number 12 shirt. 

The absence of an Esterhuizen-esque centre in the England team is not something that Smith dwells on.  

He prefers to bring a focus to the other talent that the squad possess, particularly in terms of strength and pace in the backs. 

“We've got massive wingers. Ollie Hassell-Collins is a powerful runner, [Joe] March is an extremely strong person, [Max] Malins is very clever with his running lines.

"We've got weapons. It's my job to try and find the best way to shoot our weapons and I'm still learning. I'll keep working on that and one day we'll get it,” he said positively.