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Marcus Smith revealed he traded one golden ticket for another as his British and Irish Lions call-up left him unable to attend England’s Euro 2020 final.
Harlequins fly-half Smith capped a month of mayhem and success by being called up to the Lions as injury cover for Scotland’s Finn Russell.
The 22-year-old playmaker was on the field spearheading England’s 70-14 rout of Canada at Twickenham when the news of his Lions selection broke.
Smith was the last to know about his Lions call, revealing he was informed after being substituted with 15 minutes to play in the 10-try win over Canada.
The livewire half-back will relinquish his ticket for England’s European Championship showdown against Italy on Sunday, but was delighted to be heading out to join the Lions in South Africa.
“I am lost for words really, I can’t believe what is going on,” said Smith.
“I’m massively delighted with the win today. To play for England a second time is special and it’s a day I will never forget.
“And then when I got pulled down the tunnel I thought I was in trouble, then Charlotte (Gibbons, a Rugby Football Union staff member) and Richard Hill gave me the good news.
“I was shaking, I had to ask if she was having me on and I still don’t really know what to say.
“I did have a ticket for the football. I still think it is going to come home, so hopefully when I land tomorrow I’ll see the great news. I have got to wait and see if my brother is around (to get the ticket).
“It’s a dream come true. It was always my dream to represent the Lions.
“I didn’t expect it to come this soon.
“I am going to go out there and try and learn as much as I can from some of the best players in the world.
“Then I’ll try to be myself, which will be the best of me, and see what happens.”
Jamie Blamire and Adam Radwan bagged hat-tricks, with Joe Cokanasiga claiming a brace and Ellis Genge also crossing in addition to a penalty try in England’s hefty win.
Ross Braude and Kainoa Lloyd claimed tries for an outclassed Canada, with England improving on last weekend’s 43-29 win over the United States.
Smith admitted he will now struggle to make sense of a madcap month in which he led Harlequins to the Gallagher Premiership title, won two England caps and then claimed that Lions call.
“I am massively overwhelmed. I will have to sit by myself for 10 minutes tonight, breathe and take it all in,” said Smith.
“It’s been a whirlwind few weeks, and a whirlwind 45 minutes to an hour.
“I will try and take it all in, but I don’t think I will until I get out there.
“My team-mates were massively supportive. When I was doing my television interview they were all distracting me.
“If your team-mates respect you as a bloke and a player, that’s the biggest respect you can get, and I am happy.
“Eddie (Jones) just said go out there and enjoy it, take it all in, learn as much as you can and come back a better player.”