England bank on Harlequins formula to unleash Marcus Smith’s full force against Italy


Eddie Jones hailed a team for ‘lighting up Rome’ and to do so he sprinkled Harlequins stardust on an England outfit that should unleash their best attacking intentions.

There has been a move away from hybrid selections in the backline against Scotland, and the big changes appear to have built a squad to maximize the power of Marcus Smith and bring greater ruthlessness to the team that hasn’t managed to fire enough shots against Scotland.

The selection of Jack Nowell on the left wing, allowing Joe Marchant to start at outside center – his starting position at Harlequins – instantly brought a more specialist look to the back line.

Even more significant is a first Six Nations start for club-mate Alex Dombrandt, who is preferred at No.8 to Sam Simmonds.

Since Smith was promoted to starting fly-half, it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before Dombrandt made it into the team, given the innate understanding the pair have together on offense. It’s as if they share the same instinct for exploiting space, with Smith’s speed and distribution pairing superbly with Dombrandt’s fearsome carrying ability.

“It’s not an orthodox No. 8 – it’s a free No. 8,” Jones said. “He reminds me of Bobby Skinstad (No.8 Springbok World Cup winner) because he puts himself in good positions to attack. It’s the kind of game that’s going to have a lot of space, so that will suit.

“Italy tends to be more open and unstructured type games, so we think it’s a great game for him to start.

“We see that certain styles of players fit together and they certainly have that understanding. Alex runs Marcus’ inside balls very well. He knows when to do it. They will do it on the pitch and today in training they did it again and I’m sure it will happen on Sunday.

Also at the center of Quins’ attacking pivot is Danny Care’s speed and running lines, and by promoting Harry Randall to the starting XV ahead of Ben Youngs, Bristol’s scrum-half should offer a similar running threat, and the power of this offensive combination. is underlined by the passage of Marchant in outside center.

Jones demands that his team become more aggressive, but it’s not just about physical confrontation, but also about thinking.

“Whatever number on your back, if it’s on, call the ball over there,” Marchant said.

“The way Marcus does it to Quins is great, because you can just tell him exactly where you want him. I had so many chances to kick him and it’s literally me. am in space and he who thinks “well, I can do it” because he has the skills.

“It’s great because all the other boys around him think the same. Even in training we do a lot of that stuff, ‘bosu’ games (small-scale touch games) in Quins where everyone plays, it’s hard work, trying to connect with each other, find the space and if it’s on, it’s on. It doesn’t matter where we are, we’re playing.

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