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Marcus Smith recalls Dan Biggar’s Lions welcome ahead of Six Nations showdown

The England start will hope to line-up against the Wales captain on 26 February.

England out-half Marcus Smith.
England out-half Marcus Smith.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

MARCUS SMITH RECALLS being welcomed on to last year’s Lions tour of South Africa by being beaten at cards by Dan Biggar as he turns his attention towards facing the Wales out-half at Twickenham.

England are aiming to build momentum in their Guinness Six Nations title quest when they face the champions in round three on 26 February.

Smith will line-up opposite Biggar for the first time on the international stage, seven months after the Wales captain emerged as a friendly face for the 23-year-old when he was summoned to South Africa as a late addition to the Lions tour.

It was part of a breakthrough summer for Smith, who had only just won his first two caps for England before jetting off to join Warren Gatland’s squad.

Smith said: “Dan’s a brilliant guy. He invited me to my first game of cards out in South Africa, which was nice. He didn’t have to do that.

“All the Welsh boys invited me to that. I lost a tenner – they were stealing my money!

Dan was very accommodating and very welcoming. He brought me up to speed with the playbook quickly and the way they wanted to play out there. He always greeted me with a smile on his face and we worked really closely together with our kicking and I learned at lot about the game from him, Finn Russell and Owen (Farrell) as well.

“I’m very grateful because I’ve been brought up in a rugby-mad family. My dad is an extremely proud Englishman and he always told me how big the Wales game is.

“If I get the opportunity to play in the game, I know how much it will mean to not only my dad but every other proud English fan in the country.”

Smith, only two games into his first Six Nations, has already stamped his authority on England’s number 10 jersey, most conclusively with an inventive man-of-the-match display against Italy on Sunday.

Against Wales he is poised to marshal another refreshed midfield after Manu Tuilagi was called into Eddie Jones’ training squad having proved his fitness for Sale in the wake of hamstring surgery.

If Tuilagi avoids any mishaps he will bring a potent carrying threat and balance to the centres, where he is set to rejoin Henry Slade.

Smith said: “Manu’s a brilliant player. Even when I was very young I used to watch him play and I even watched his first try at Twickenham, which was quite special – the dummy switch with Jonny Wilkinson.

“To be able to play with him is special. I played one or two games with him in the autumn. It’s brilliant to have him back in camp. He’s a ball of energy and all the boys love him.

“All of our centres are very different in the way they play. Manu’s a brilliant ball carrier but his skill set is undervalued. He can pass off both hands very well, he can go to the line, tip, dummy – do the whole lot.

“As with our other centres, they’re all massive threats and good carriers in their own rights.”

England have risen to second in the Six Nations table following their five-try rout of Italy with France in early command.

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“It’s been a brilliant tournament,” Smith said.

“It’s wide open at the minute. France are unbeaten still and they have a few tough games coming up. It’s all to play for.” 

Ireland legend Rob Kearney joined host Seán Burke, Murray Kinsella and Eimear Considine for the first episode of The Front Row, in partnership with Guinness. Rob ​​speaks about his most euphoric moment in a green jersey, life after retirement, a “brutal” return to the GAA pitch, and his skincare routine. Click here to subscribe or listen below:

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