Marcus Smith's performance against Wales picked apart with one glaring area Ireland will exploit
By Rugby Onslaught

Marcus Smith’s performance against Wales picked apart with one glaring area Ireland will exploit

Marcus Smith’s name has been said and written a lot this past month, so much so that fans from Ireland, Wales and Scotland will need ten months of therapy to prepare for the 2023 Six Nations.

England fans think he’s the next big thing, elsewhere fans are not so sure, but there is a lot of hype either way. With that in mind, EK Rugby Analysis recently dissected his game against Wales in round three of the Six Nations, in which he was named player of the match.

The performance was filled with the great, good and areas of improvement needed. One main area is his defence, particularly how he looks to rip the ball and how that negatively affects his side.

This is what was written:

“1. Lots been said about the hype, and counter-hype, around Marcus Smith’s performance’s for England during this 6 Nations. Rather than get drawn into media narratives or man of the match awards though, I’ve decided to just take a look at Smith’s game for myself.

“2. So, what was great, good and could improve in Smith’s performance? Let’s start with the great and the 1st kickoff of the game. 4+ seconds of hangtime allows Nowell compete , near the 5m line to pin Wales to the sideline; England ball; an underrated part of Smith’s game.

“3. Another strength of Smith’s game that’s more obvious – his elite acceleration and agility – come into play here. The England 10’s vocal direction and ability to beat defenders 1v1 are perfectly suited to this deep role behind a pod where defenders become isolated more often.

“4. In the good column there was plenty against Wales for Smith too. Smith staying straight on the pass to preserve space for runners outside, quick reset speed and running threat make it very hard for Wales’ defence to recover – leading to an England penalty.

“5. Smith struck the ball of the tee very cleanly off the tee too against Wales. Indeed, the 23-year-old leads the Six Nations for points scored with 48 (including 10 penalties and 4 conversions). England have scored 73 points in the Championship in total.

“6. As we can see, Smith performs a lot of the bread-and-butter roles of an out-half very well; and even exceptionally in some instances.

“So, where can he improve? Let’s start with how he directs England’s attack in the opposition 22.

“7. We’ve already talked about how great Smith can be behind a pod of forwards However, rather than continuing to use that strength in the 22, Smith often stopped showing for the ball, making for easier Welsh tackle-decisions and a lack of direction in England’s attack.

“8. Another favourite play of Smith’s which can be deadly is switching the direction of the attack from midfield platforms. However, while Dombrandt wins a penalty here, Smith’s passivity sees him miss a 5v2 overlap to his right here by pre-calling instead of scanning around him.

“9. While Simmonds also misses a tackle here, 3 of Smith’s 4 missed tackles vs. Wales came from attempting a tackle or rip in a standing position. Smith had only missed 1 tackle in the 6 Nations prior to this game, but tackle height is definitely a work-on for the young 10.

“10. To sum up, while Ireland will look to test his tackling early on, for me, Marcus Smith has the makings of a top class test 10. Indeed, many of the areas the 7-cap international needs to improve in are area’s he’s already strong in and just not making the most off yet.

“11. It’s easy to get into debates about players being under or overrated, which is why they’re so seductive for the media. However, if you take one thing from this thread, watch the game for yourself first because, as Smith’s performance shows, it’s rarely as simple as that.”