Dylan Hartley hopes Eddie Jones will hand Marcus Smith the No 10 shirt for England’s autumn Test campaign, to form a revamped creative hub with captain Owen Farrell.
Former skipper Hartley has backed Farrell, his successor, to survive any overhaul of the back line for fixtures against Tonga, Australia and South Africa at Twickenham next month.
But Hartley is adamant that Smith should be selected as the primary playmaker, with one eye on the next World Cup in 2023.
Dylan Hartley hopes Eddie Jones will hand Marcus Smith the No 10 shirt for the autumn Tests
The Harlequins sensation marked his return to club action with a sublime performance to inspire his side’s recovery from a 21-0 deficit to thrash Bristol 52-24 at the Stoop last Friday.
It was a vivid reminder of the precocious talent which saw the 22-year-old make his England debut in the summer, before joining the Lions as a late call-up.
Asked if Smith’s electric exploits could force Jones’s hand, Hartley said: ‘Yeah. Give Marcus a go. It’s a bold statement of what this England team is about if he gets a shot. It’s not fanfare, it’s warranted.
Hartley is adamant Smith should be selected as the primary playmaker, with one eye on 2023
Smith marked his return to action with Harlequins with a sublime performance against Bristol
‘Is he the future in that fly-half shirt? He is going to have to go through some hurt and some lessons in his international career. We can’t just expect him to go out there, score a hat-trick and kick all the points. There’s going to be some things where we all say, “Oh, he didn’t manage the game very well”. He’s still a young kid but the sooner we do that, the better it is for 2023. That needs to start.
‘Eddie needs to think, “Who’s my fly-half for that World Cup?” It would be really bold to put Marcus in there. It would be a show of confidence and a show to everyone — the rugby world, us, whoever is watching, the team — of how they want to take this team forward. I’d love to see it.
‘He does all the silky, flash stuff that captures the Instagram reels and YouTube highlights but his basics are really strong as well. He’s not scared. He’s physical. He makes his tackles. There are lots of fly-halves who throw the ball about, have that flair, but shy away from physicality. He doesn’t.’
The talented Smith made his England debut in July, before he joined the Lions as a late call-up
If Smith is included in a full-strength England team, it will be at the expense of a big-name stalwart of the back line. In Hartley’s view, the casualty will have to be George Ford as he insists that Farrell, 30, has to continue as captain.
‘It doesn’t mean Owen’s not in the team,’ he added. ‘Owen can be pushed to 12. Manu Tuilagi is back – 13 for Manu.
‘If we are talking about attack, do we want two distributors? I think England looked best when we had George and Owen on the field. Two sides of attack, two distributors. But if Manu moves to 13, what happens to Henry Slade?
Eddie Jones will be forced to leave out a big-name stalwart in the back line if he selects Smith
‘I don’t think Owen will be overlooked. He does the basics really well and has credit in the bank with Eddie. His work isn’t unseen by Eddie, it’s unseen by us. Just because Marcus is playing so well it doesn’t mean Owen is gone. I’d like to see him play with Marcus.
‘Everyone wants to emulate Owen’s success. He is one cap from a Test century, he has won numerous amounts of silverware, does the basics really well, but no one sees or wants to emulate what goes in to get that success. He is your consummate professional.
‘Everyone has a life-span and he is not at the end of his life-span. He is only getting better, is pretty well driven. Shiny things don’t motivate him, success does. People don’t see that. He loves rugby, he is a competitor, one of the best on the team-sheet on his day, and when he is not he is still a hell of a competitor and player. There is no reason to change Owen Farrell.’
Amazon Prime Video will exclusively broadcast 17 Autumn Nations Series matches live later this month and next.