Marcus Smith is a glass-half-full kind of character, so while England’s rookie fly-half was ‘gutted’ by the way his first Six Nations campaign fell flat, he is adamant that better times lie ahead – soon.
The 23-year-old is back in action for Harlequins, and after leading them to a Premiership victory over London Irish in Brentford on Sunday, he is preparing to face powerful Montpellier in France. There is a Double to shoot for, and Smith is concentrating on that right now.
But he has just completed a big career milestone: his first championship with England, after emerging as the country’s preeminent No 10 last autumn. Eddie Jones’ side went into the Six Nations with high hopes, only to fall short at the first hurdle in Scotland, finishing third in the standings after replicating their three defeats in five games from 2021.
Asked to reflect on the tournament, Smith said: ‘It was an unbelievable experience with brilliant boys. I learned a lot about myself personally – about my mentality – from playing in high-pressure environments like away at Murrayfield and away in France. They were both tough places to go.
‘You get a lot of stick as an Englishman at Murrayfield. I didn’t realise. Maybe I was a bit naïve going up there and thinking it would be plain sailing. It was a tough Test match. I learned about how to control myself in big, pressure moments, which I will try to bring back here, hopefully for knock-out games with Harlequins.’
‘It was nothing to do with me or any of the other players. It was a management decision. As a team, we back the coaches. The boys gave it their all for the last 15 minutes and I was shouting from the crowd. Did it hurt me being taken off? No.’
Smith’s instinct is to be positive, but he’s also a great competitor. Losing affects him, so having it happen against Scotland, Ireland, and France left a bad taste in his mouth.
‘We were close, in parts. At 70 minutes in most games, we were there or thereabouts. I guess we are always looking for that perfect game and we probably didn’t get that. But we learned a lot. On our review day, post-France, we had loads of different ideas.
‘I’m sure whoever gets selected to go to Australia will be much better equipped to go there and do the job. Eddie (Jones) told all of us to work on coming back – if selected – two or three per cent better. Ultimately, if we as individuals come back a little bit better, we’ll be better as a team.’