Nick Evans confident Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell axis can fire for England

England’s new attack coach believes the misfiring Marcus Smith-Owen Farrell creative axis can be ignited by providing the clarity that was missing under the previous regime.

Nick Evans, an influential figure in Harlequins’ all-action charge to the 2021 Gallagher Premiership title, will oversee the attack for the Six Nations as part of Steve Borthwick’s freshly assembled management team.

Under Eddie Jones, a confused England had become increasingly impotent with the failure of Smith and Farrell to gel at the heart of a malaise that contributed to the Australian’s sacking last month.

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Farrell has been superb as Saracens’ fly-half so far this season while Smith, who fills the same position for Quins, will make his first appearance since the autumn against Racing 92 on Sunday having recovered from an ankle injury.

It remains to be seen whether Borthwick persists with the duo at 10 and 12 for England but, if he does, Evans will remain mindful of the need to avoid ‘death by detail’.

“There is no reason why they can’t play together. But you have to be very clear about what you are trying to achieve, how you are doing this, what the detail looks like. Once everyone is clear on that then you can go through with it,” Evans said.

“Some of the feedback was that maybe that wasn’t there, so maybe there was a bit of a crossover. It’s just about making sure that you’re very clear on roles and responsibilities.”

Addressing England’s muddled attack, Evans added: “Sometimes the old death by detail can be a thing. The overcomplicating of things.

Owen Farrell (left) and Marcus Smith have yet to fire as a partnership for England
Owen Farrell (left) and Marcus Smith have yet to fire as a partnership for England (Ben Whitley/PA)

“As coaches, we don’t get much time with the players. We’ve got a week with them and then we’re playing Scotland in the first game, so the information needs to be really clear and direct.

“The players need to go on to the field and have a really clear understanding of ‘right, in these areas of the field I know exactly how we want to play’.”

Quins lit up the Premiership in the 2020-21 season by cutting defences to ribbons and, while they were dethroned by Leicester in June, they remain the league’s most exciting side.

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Evans, however, wants to keep expectations in check amongst those hoping his temporary promotion by England will result in similar pyrotechnics with a side that lost more Tests than they won last year.

“I imagine there are a lot of people maybe thinking naively that the Harlequins structure will be thrown into England. I know that won’t work,” he said.

“It’s about having real alignment with the coaches around the style that we want to play and the mindset in how we want to play in all areas.

“There’s just not enough time to change everything and I don’t think everything needs changing. My focus is around bringing energy and clarity over when we have ball in hand.”