Marcus Smith called up to Lions squad as injury cover for Finn Russell

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Marcus Smith’s stellar season continued after he was summoned to South Africa by the British and Irish Lions as injury cover for Finn Russell.

Smith only made his England debut against the USA last Sunday and was helping Eddie Jones’ team topple Canada when news of his call-up by Warren Gatland was announced.

A week before winning his first cap, the 22-year-old playmaker lifted the Gallagher Premiership crown with Harlequins and had been instrumental in a swashbuckling passage to Twickenham.

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Russell has been forced to withdraw from the bench for Saturday’s clash with the Sharks because of an achilles injury and he will miss the next three games of the tour, which include the opening Test against the Springboks on July 24.

Smith will fly to Cape Town on Sunday to join up with the Lions squad, who depart Johannesburg the same day.

“We’re obviously disappointed for Finn, who has been outstanding since he came into camp in Jersey, but we are optimistic he’ll still play an important role in the Tour,” Gatland said.

Finn Russell is still expected to have a role for the Lions
Finn Russell is still expected to have a role for the Lions (Steve Haag/PA)

“We have two experienced fly halves in Owen Farrell and Dan Biggar, so it’s a great opportunity for the continued development of Marcus.

“I’ve been following him closely for the past 12 months and I’ve been impressed with how well he’s matured as a player.

“Finn and Marcus are similar in that they like to play with a bit of freedom so, for me, it’s as close to a like-for-like cover as we can get. We look forward to welcoming him to the group in Cape Town.”

Smith was replaced in the 66th minute against Canada having kicked nine conversions and was told of his Lions promotion upon leaving the Twickenham pitch. He will be PCR tested before heading to South Africa.

Marcus Smith (centre) was withdrawn against Canada after his call-up
Marcus Smith (centre) was withdrawn against Canada after his call-up (Andrew Matthews/PA)

However, his call up comes at the cost of a seat to watch England play Italy in final of Euro 2020 on Sunday night after former Harlequins wing Ugo Monye revealed they were due to attend Wembley together.

Smith emerged as the Premiership’s form fly-half of the 2020-21 season and there was a growing clamour for his selection by Jones.

His game management skills have improved over the last year to accompany the attacking instincts that already make him the most dangerous playmaker in the league.

The Quins fly-half described his shock call-up as a “dream come true” after England team manager Richard Hill told him at Twickenham.

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“I can’t believe it. When Hilly pulled me in the tunnel and told me I was shaking. He said I had been called up and it was a special thing for me. I still can’t believe it,” Smith told Channel 4.

“I don’t think this season will really sink in until I get back from the Lions tour. I will have to pinch myself on the plane.

“I haven’t played yet but it will be special and is a dream come true, for sure. It is the pinnacle of any young English player. It will be a dream come true if I get the opportunity.”

While Smith will not get the chance to watch the Euro 2020 final at Wembley, he backed Gareth Southgate’s team to clinch silverware.

“We were meant to go but I think I will be on the plane,” Smith said. “England are going to win, 2-0. It’s coming home!”

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