Marcus Smith has admitted that he has struggled to find his feet at fly half since returning to Harlequins after the Rugby World Cup.
Smith spent most of England’s tournament at full-back, starting the quarter-final win over Fiji after a series of enterprising bench cameos.
The 24-year-old had never previously featured at the position but impressed Steve Borthwick and the rest of the England coaches by quickly adapting to a new role.
But Smith has now revealed that he has found adjusting to life back at ten harder than anticipated since returning to club duty.
The playmaker sparkled in Harlequins’ Friday night thrashing of Sale Sharks, and explained afterwards that a focus on going “back to basics” had led to an improved showing.
“To be honest, I’ve found it hard the last three weeks that I’ve been playing,” a candid Smith conceded after the 36-3 win at the Twickenham Stoop.
“Obviously, the last six months prior to that I was playing predominantly 15, training at 15. Obviously it is a different position, and potentially I was slightly naïve in thinking it would be slightly easier [switching back]. It probably took a bit longer than I would like.
“[The win over Sale] was massively important for me to get back on page, do the basics well. I tried to bring it back to basics this week — it was just about putting my super-strengths on the park at ten, making good decisions.
“I wasn’t happy with my performances the last three weeks so to finish the Premiership block with his performance, on the back of all the hard work the boys did, I’m really happy.”
Harlequins sit third in the Premiership table after eight games and are just one point behind league leaders Sale as they prepare to begin their Investec Champions Cup campaign.
Smith’s return to form is timely ahead of back-to-back fixtures against two Top 14 heavyweights: the London club open their European efforts with a trip to Paris to take on Racing 92 on Sunday, before welcoming Toulouse to the Stoop a week later.
Steve Borthwick was a keen observer on Friday night as Smith out-performed England rival George Ford, with their individual duel in the spotlight after Owen Farrell’s decision to take a break from international rugby.
Confirming that he had reached out to Farrell after the announcment, Smith stressed that was not focussed on any potential fly half vacancy.
“First and foremost, this week was about getting myself back on track,” he said. “I had a good chat with the coaches and the psychologist at the club.
“The people that we have in the club always put their arm round me and back me up. To have that confidence put into you, and I’ve had it for the last six years, is very special for me. This week, I tried to focus on bringing it back to basics and enjoying my rugby, because I love playing here and I love playing for this club.
“I spoke to Faz [Owen Farrell] this week and checked if everything was alright. I wish him all the best from the bottom of my heart.
“But I’m not looking too far ahead. We’ve got two big weeks coming up in Europe. All our focus is going to be on Racing and Racing only.”
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