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Lions call up 22-year-old Marcus Smith as out-half cover for injured Russell

Warren Gatland has added the Harlequins star to his squad.

Smith is playing for England today.
Smith is playing for England today.
Image: PA

THE LIONS HAVE called up 22-year-old English out-half Marcus Smith as injury cover for Finn Russell.

Scotland playmaker Russell is dealing with an Achilles tendon issue and was withdrawn from this evening’s clash with the Sharks [KO 5pm, Sky Sports]. He will miss the Lions’ next three games on tour.

Head coach Warren Gatland has reacted swiftly to bring in cover for Russell, with Smith now set to fly out to South Africa tomorrow.

Harlequins star Smith, who led his club to a sensational Premiership title this season, is currently playing for England against Canada at Twickenham in London. The out-half only made his Test debut against the US last weekend.

Gatland has opted for the exciting potential of Smith as cover for Russell ahead of the experienced Johnny Sexton and George Ford, although neither of those men has been playing for Ireland or England this month having been given the summer off. Sexton last played in April.

“We’re obviously disappointed for Finn, who I think has been outstanding since he came into camp in Jersey, but we are optimistic he’ll still play an important role in the Tour,” said Gatland.

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“We have two experienced fly-halves in Owen Farrell and Dan Biggar, so it’s a great opportunity for the continued development of Marcus.

“I’ve been following him closely for the past 12 months and I’ve been impressed with how well he’s matured as a player.

“Finn and Marcus are similar in that they like to play with a bit of freedom, so, for me, it’s as close to a like-for-like cover as we can get. We look forward to welcoming him to the group in Cape Town.”

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