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Felix Jones praises the game-changing skills of Marcus Smith, the fly-half for England.
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Felix Jones praises the game-changing skills of Marcus Smith, the fly-half for England.

Felix Jones, the assistant coach for England, has commended the game-changing skills of fly-half Marcus Smith, stating that he possesses a unique ability that sets him apart from other players.

After devising strategies to contain the Harlequins No 10 during his time with the Springboks, Jones is now a member of a coaching staff aiming to fully utilize the potential of the 25-year-old player.

In 2021, Smith was part of the British & Irish Lions team that visited South Africa. Later that same year, his penalty kick secured a thrilling victory for England against the Springboks at Twickenham during the Autumn international matches.

Next Saturday, England will take on Scotland at Murrayfield in hopes of securing their third tournament victory in a row. Despite suffering from a calf injury, Smith has been selected by coach Steve Borthwick to join the training squad for the Calcutta Cup and is working towards being fit for the match.

Jones stated that in the past, he would have been examining the player during his time with the Lions tour and previous games between South Africa and England.

“I would have definitely taken notice of him, as he is an exceptional player who possesses skills that not many others have. His movements are so impressive that it’s hard not to notice him.”

Renowned for his thoroughness and focus on precision, Jones is striving to incorporate the blitz defense strategy that proved successful for South Africa in their victories at the 2019 and 2023 World Cups.

When questioned about whether Smith’s tendency to be unpredictable can cause him to be excluded from his team, and if this is a concern for coaches, Jones replied: “We would need to have a thorough discussion and examine specific instances and the underlying reasons. Overall, I believe he has been performing exceptionally well this season.”

“The individuals who reach the Test arena are often those who challenge the norms and exceed expectations. They push themselves beyond conventional boundaries, and this is typically what sets them apart as the best. It’s important to strike a balance in this approach.”

Jones praised the England team for their exceptional execution of his strategies during the initial two rounds of the Six Nations, resulting in wins against Italy and Wales. However, the 36-year-old coach is aware that the upcoming game at Murrayfield will be a tougher test.

In the second round, Scotland’s Gregor Townsend put a lot of pressure on France, utilizing a kicking approach that may have been influenced by how South Africa used garryowens to defeat Les Bleus in the World Cup quarter-final last year.

Felix JonesView image in fullscreen

According to Jones, Scotland’s style of play is not limited to just kicking, as their running game is also highly potent and poses many challenges. He specifically mentions Finn Russell’s exceptional passing abilities and knack for creating space and outsmarting defenders. Additionally, players like Duhan van der Merwe and Blair Kinghorn are also capable of making game-changing plays, highlighting Scotland’s diverse range of skills and strategic approach.

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Jones commended the performance of England’s Freddie Steward, a skilled full-back who can dominate in the air. He also expressed concern about the potential impact of Russell’s boot on Borthwick’s team against Scotland.

Jones commented that Freddie has a strong skill in aerial play and has been effectively utilizing it in recent games. He also noted that in addition to this, Freddie still has areas for improvement.

Jones stated that his journey as a coach has progressed naturally, due to an injury that led to his retirement from playing at the age of 28. A former full-back, Jones is originally from south Dublin but joined Munster in 2009. During his time with the team, he played in 90 matches and also earned 13 caps for the Irish national team.

“After retiring from playing, I didn’t have a specific plan in mind. My main goal was to find something that I truly enjoyed and was passionate about, and then seize any opportunities that came my way,” Jones shared. “I didn’t have a concrete plan to end up where I am now or to collaborate with the individuals I have. It all came about naturally.”

When asked about his experience as a coach during Test match days, Jones replied that it’s a bit of a rollercoaster. He explained that there are moments of stress and moments of enjoyment, as so much effort is put into the game but there is also a strong passion for winning.

“You are aware that it is impossible to succeed in every instance. There will be times of stress and times of happiness. This is what makes it alluring – you feel alive, but there are highs and lows.”

Source: theguardian.com