Eddie Jones has backed Marcus Smith to handle the pressure of being England’s fly-half after naming the exciting Harlequins prospect in his Autumn Nations Series squad.
Smith made his debut in the summer against the US before being picked as a late call-up for the British and Irish Lions’ tour to South Africa.
“First of all he’s got to get in the side, that’s the number one step,” said Jones. “If he does that then there’s an opportunity for him to add his own flavour and his own strengths to the team.
“The big test for players is how they handle either the criticism or the adulation and keep perspective. The best players in the world keep perspective because they’re never as good as people say they are and they’re never as bad as people say.
“That’s the test of a young player coming through. We wouldn’t have selected Marcus if we didn’t think he could handle that but we’ll need to make sure as coaching staff we guide him and give him advice when it’s needed. I’m sure he’s got his own advice committee outside the team which is going to be important for him.”
Smith is one of three fly-half options selected, alongside the England captain Owen Farrell and Northampton Saints full-back George Furbank, seen by Jones as a potential third choice No10.
Having shone for his club in recent seasons, including in last week’s incredible 52-24 win over Bristol Bears, Smith has earned another call-up. However, this autumn’s tests, in front of a capacity Twickenham, will be a bigger test.
“The role of a 10 is to be the bus driver and the conductor,” Jones continued. “He’s got to create a route for the team, he’s got to create a place for the team to go and then he’s got to get the team to play to that beat. It’s a combination of being a team player and being an individual player.”
The 34-man squad features four uncapped players: Gloucester centre Mark Atkinson, Sale Sharks scrum-half Raffi Quirke, Saints winger Tommy Freeman and the in-form Leicester Tigers hooker Nic Dolly. The group also has a further 10 players with five caps or less.
Excluded from the squad, however, are some of the key cogs in the machine that made it to the World Cup in 2019. The Vunipola brothers, Mako and Billy, have been left out, alongside teammate Jamie George and Leicester’s George Ford.
Jones said: “We’ve now had a number of players who have been through two World Cup campaigns, and in the third I’ve seen with players previously that some can want to go but they don’t really have the will to prepare to win the World Cup.”
Eddie Jones cited Farrell as the best man for the captaincy job and with many of the former senior leadership team not in the current set-up, the coach will use a training camp in Jersey next week to assess potential candidates for the group role.
Among the other names included are back row duo Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds, both of whom are performing well for their clubs, Harlequins and Exeter Chiefs, so far this season. Jones described Simmonds as a player whose “time with the Lions has put a few finishing touches on his game” while referring to Dombrandt as having “great running skills in the open” with a great defensive game.
Harlequins flyer Louis Lynagh didn’t feature in the squad but Eddie Jones said he was close to featuring, Captain in the summer Lewis Ludlow and centres Joe Marchant and Ollie Lawrence are among those who have not made the squad after being part of the wider training group.