Marcus Smith teased by England team-mates over Racing 92 speculation

By Sports Desk July 21, 2023

George Ford says England’s players have been teasing Marcus Smith about using rumoured interest from Racing 92 as “leverage” to negotiate his new contract at Harlequins.

Smith this week ensured he will remain available for Test selection for the foreseeable future by agreeing an extended deal with the 2021 Gallagher Premiership champions.

French club Racing, who will be coached by former England boss Stuart Lancaster next season, were reportedly lining up the 24-year-old as a potential replacement for Bath-bound Finn Russell.

“There has been a fair bit of joking going on,” Ford said of his fellow fly-half.

“Whatever the rumours were about Racing a few weeks ago, everyone was saying, ‘you were always going to stay at Quins, you were just using that as a bit of leverage’.

“I’ve spoken to him, obviously he’s delighted to be staying, it’s his club and the influence he has on that team is incredible so I’m sure everyone at Quins will be buzzing for him to stay.

“I can only speak for myself but when you’re English and you want to play for England, you’ve got to play for an English club.

“It means a lot to play at club level and international level for us all, it’s no different for Marcus.”

Ford and Smith are currently working together at England’s Surrey training base as part of a 39-man preliminary World Cup squad.

Steve Borthwick is fine tuning plans for the forthcoming tournament in France, with four warm-up matches scheduled next month.

The head coach was given less than nine months to prepare for the game’s greatest competition after replacing Eddie Jones on December 19.

While Australia, who subsequently appointed Jones in January, and Wales have also recently changed coach, Ford warned England must be the “fastest-learning team” in order to be up to speed in time for their Pool D opener fixture against Argentina on September 9.

Yet the 30-year-old Sale player also believes the situation could prove beneficial.

“I think we’re in a unique place in terms of that,” said Ford, who is preparing for his third successive World Cup. “It’s a great opportunity.

“In terms of the timeframe, we’ve got to be the quickest and fastest-learning team, it’s just the nature of where we’re at.

“At the previous World Cup, we had four years together and it was quite consistent in terms of squad, coaches et cetera but this is a lot different.

“I still think there is a massive opportunity here and one that I don’t think is going to hold us back if we get it right. I think it could be a massive positive for us.

“Sometimes, in a funny way, when you’ve got less time to get somewhere, you’ve got less thinking and less messing around to get there.

“You’ve just got to go and I think that’ll help us as a team.”

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