Publication:

The Mail on Sunday - 2021-11-21

Data:

Smith: It’s all down to Jonny

Rugby

By Adam Hathaway

MARCUS Smith landed the killer blow as England toppled South Africa 27-26 at Twickenham – then paid tribute to two predecessors in England’s No.10 shirt. The fly-half was on target with a 45m penalty in the final minute as England held their nerve to stun the world champions. England’s most revered No.10, Jonny Wilkinson, was in England’s Bagshot camp last week – he is a regular visitor – and passed on tips to Smith. And the 22-year-old also paid tribute to Owen Farrell who missed the game after ankle surgery and is expected to be out for up to 12 weeks. Smith said of Wilkinson: ‘It’s all down to him. He’s been working hard with me and, again, putting his arm around me and allowing me to explore at the weekend. I appreciated it, big time. ‘Over the last four weeks I’ve loved working with Owen. It’s a shame he fell to injury last week but we’ve been in contact this week and he’s been helping me a lot and I’ve learned loads from him. Again, the boys put their arm around me ... the senior players – Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler ... to have him back as well ... was special for me. And having those guys around makes it so much easier for me. ‘Jonny Wilkinson has been working hard with me ... all credit goes to those guys and I appreciate it big-time.’ England have beaten Tonga and Australia this autumn but Smith admitted this date with Siya Kolisi’s men had been circled in red in the team’s diary. He revealed the long wait for the decision to award his match-winning penalty whilst referee Andrew Brace looked at an incident where Springbok replacement Frans Steyn dived in at Tom Curry had not calmed him down. He added: ‘I think the referees were checking the TMO and it made it more nervewracking but the boys around me backed me, the boys around me put their arm around me and said’go for it mate, back yourself, believe in yourself’. ‘So I tried to do that and ultimately I did my job, it was brilliant. ‘It was special. Once I hit the kick and it was sailing through, it was like slow motion for me and I saw it sailing through the posts ... but we still had to a job to do. ‘We said four weeks ago, this one’s the game we wanted to target. The lads bought in, we’ve got extremely close as a group and today was a massive, massive part of our journey as a young group of England players.

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