The England fly-half will fly out as injury cover for Finn Russell


Marcus Smith called up by British & Irish Lions

Marcus Smith has been called up to the British & Irish Lions 2021 squad as injury cover for Finn Russell.

The news came as the fly-half was playing for England against Canada at Twickenham and he didn’t find out that he would be joining the Lions squad until he was substituted late in the second half.

“I can’t believe it,” Smith told Channel 4 post-match. “When Hilly (England team manager Richard Hill) called me into the tunnel to tell me I’d been called up I was shaking. It’s amazing – I’m still shaking now.

“I don’t think it will sink in until I get back from the Lions tour. I’ll have to pinch myself on the plane. It’s a dream come true, the pinnacle for any young England player.”

Related: A roller-coaster season for Marcus Smith

Russell is managing an Achilles issue and was withdrawn from the match-day 23 to face the Sharks on Saturday. The Scotland fly-half will remain with the squad but will not feature in their next three matches, hence why Smith has been called up.

Smith, 22, will fly out to join the squad in Cape Town on Sunday subject to the results of a PCR test for Covid-19.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland said: “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.

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

Related: Meet Harlequins half-backs Danny Care and Marcus Smith

“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.”

Smith was a key member of the Harlequins squad that won the Gallagher Premiership last month and made his England debut against the USA last Saturday before starting at No 10 again against Canada.

Can’t get to the shops? You can download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.

Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.