Marcus Smith talks about his haircut. Some members of his family adore him, others think it’s time for a change. He’s likely to stay for now, but Smith isn’t ruling anything out if it gets too long and starts to affect his performance. All fairly mundane things and hardly worth mentioning, but for the way he handled the matter.
There is no shame, no embarrassment in discussing her appearance. Just an enthusiastic and comprehensive response that doesn’t add up to much. Smith turned 23 on Monday, he has only seven caps in England to his credit but already seems to have mastered the art of committed deflection.
In this sense, he embodies the star of modern sport. It will meet all the trappings of fame that Eddie Jones was so keen to highlight in the fall, but which so far has only made headlines for positive reasons. He is the poster child for Jones’ “New England” project and his level of exposure has never been higher.
Smith’s determination to keep his feet on the ground, however, is matched only by that of mastering his craft. He’s no longer the apprentice with an asterisk in his name, but rather a senior England squad official and someone to build a team around, although he still understands his role when he’s on his way. is to make tea. It helps that he worked closely with Jonny Wilkinson, someone who never felt comfortable in the spotlight and who carried what was at times an unmanageable weight of expectation throughout his career. But for Smith, family comes first and it’s at home that he gets a regular dose of reality.
“The other week I made a drop goal that didn’t go over the mark, and that’s the first thing my brothers said to me – they were laughing their heads off, peppering me with images and videos,” Smith says. “If I start to outgrow my boots, my parents will step in and tell me I’m on the wrong track, that I’m not Marcus anymore. My brothers, the sacrifices they have made for me and my career have been immense.
These sacrifices made by brothers Luc and Tomas include sidelining their own rugby activities for Smith’s sake. Half-Filipino, Smith grew up in Singapore playing junior rugby for Centaurs RFC, whose tour destinations included Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne. “These two wouldn’t play for their own teams because they would want to watch me,” Smith recalled. “They would come to Australia to support me. I have to attribute a lot of that to them. I don’t know how they sacrificed those weekends watching me – it was probably pretty boring to watch. It was extremely special. It allowed us to travel as a family and stay together as a tight-knit group.
So, in the midst of a Six Nations tournament in which Smith has already shone, scoring 60% of England’s points so far, is he noticing any extra attention? “I try to keep all these external things out of my sight,” he says. “You hear about it and sometimes you see it but I try to keep my distance. I can always go for coffee and at Nando’s on my days off. I don’t get harassed too much, it’s not football .
What is most striking about Smith, beyond the obvious talent, is his tunnel vision. His ability to reset, to just play the next point so to speak. Jones suggested that wasn’t always the case but, as he starred in Harlequins’ miraculous Premiership title win last season and then made his England debut, was taken away to join the British Lions and Irish, then installed as Jones’ first-choice fly-half, at least outwardly he betrayed no temptation to stop and smell the roses. Wilkinson, we feel, plays a key role in this regard.
“Every time I meet him, I leave our session with a new breath of life,” Smith says. “He taught me a lot, not just about rugby, not just kicking, but a way of living life and a way of being when the pressure is on, when the pressure isn’t there, when things go your way, when things don’t go your way. If you can learn to control that stuff, eventually you’ll become bulletproof, and that’s where it was towards. the final stages of his career. When things are going well, it’s never as good as it looks and when things are going badly, it’s never as bad as it looks. C It’s something you have to experience easy or hard. Knock on wood, luckily so far it hasn’t been stressful for me and I’m happy and enjoying my life at the minute.
And what about making tea? “My dad told me he made them when he started working at a real estate agent, and my mom told me when she worked at Cathay Pacific,” he adds. “I always do the tea rounds. I’m also going to have a cup of tea with Manu Tuilagi tonight, and a shortbread, if we’re lucky. In Jersey, when I stayed with him, we had many tea parties together. I obviously made them; he was on his bed playing chess.
As England prepare to face Wales at Twickenham next Saturday, how Smith links up with Tuilagi – assuming he returns directly to the squad – is likely to be crucial to the performance of the ‘England. Smith was a 12-year-old supporter in the stands at Twickenham when Tuilagi scored his first England try against Wales. To line up next to him in the white heat of an England v Wales battle is now Smith’s next test. On the current form, we would support him to succeed.