DANNY CIPRIANI: Marcus Smith must be given the freedom he loves

DANNY CIPRIANI: Marcus Smith must be given the freedom he loves by Eddie Jones… No 10 enjoys pushing boundaries but looks restricted by the England game plan

  • England showed last week that when it’s them against the world, they will fight
  • But we need to see a performance in the series decider that shows real progress 
  • I want to see England show more layers against Australia, in the way they play 
  • Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell need the freedom to really click as a partnership

England are a team built on emotion. When their backs are against the wall, Eddie Jones can spur an impassioned rally, but today we need to witness a performance that shows the group is progressing.

That’s what I really want to see. I think England will win, but to me that wouldn’t be a success if there’s not a good performance too — a clear step forward.

England know how to beat Australia. If you look at every Test since Eddie’s been involved, apart from the first Test here in Perth, they have physically dominated Australia in every game. It has not really been close.

Marcus Smith must play like he does for Harlequins and allow his intuition to take over

This England team showed again last weekend that when it’s them against the world, they will fight and that’s credit to them, but are this group being pushed to develop? Where’s the growth in the attacking framework?

Last week, they box-kicked better and chased better, they were more physical and they got a win. But they didn’t create anything where you thought: ‘That is good rugby’ apart from the cross-field from Owen Farrell on 70 minutes. 

There have been so many highs and lows under Eddie because England are an emotional team, but you can’t play a successful season like that. Emotion is important, don’t get me wrong. You have to throw the kitchen sink at it. 

Lawrence Dallaglio was one of the most emotional players I played with, but he wasn’t crying and screaming every single game. He saved his tears for the big games, when he really came into his own.

I want to see England show more layers today, in the way they play — and that means giving freedom to Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell, to really click as a 10-12 partnership. That hasn’t happened yet. They’re still trying to play the same kicking game, rather than letting Marcus play as he likes to play.

Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell need the freedom to really click as a 10-12 partnership

Everything has been going right for him at Quins. Everything he’s been touching has turned to gold. Then he joins up with England and I can imagine the message is ‘make sure you sit back and kick the ball here — make sure the ball is put in this area’. 

You can see that is at the forefront of his mind. During the second Test he tried so many little kicks and dinks, some worked out, some meant he was missing running opportunities for which normally he doesn’t need a second invite.

The positive is that he will be learning next to Owen on how to handle and manage games — but it’s important Marcus doesn’t lose what makes him special in the process.

When he’s at Quins, Marcus pushes the boundaries, but with England he’s still finding himself and perhaps overthinking rather than allowing his intuition to take over and letting loose those fast feet we are so accustomed to seeing.

When you put relationships in place, sometimes they click instantly, but sometimes you have to just work each other out a little bit. Owen is very strong minded and leads from the front. Right now, Marcus and Owen are the best two to play at 10 and 12, we all just want to see them find the balance they need.

Farrell is going to be leading the squad in playing on force and emotion in the series-decider

For the relationship to succeed, it will take Owen to lead in a new way which allows Marcus to come to the forefront and imprint on others how he sees the game as it is clear that attacking space is his strength.

Owen is going to be leading the squad in playing on force and emotion as they are some of his strengths. It’s going to be Eddie’s job, as well as that of the players, to really develop their attacking style today. He will feel the pressure building.

There have been glimpses of the partnership working, but when Owen was at first receiver, he was giving the ball to Marcus so early and didn’t commit anyone. Owen can do that. Vice versa, Marcus has had times when he could go out the back to Owen but it’s not quite synched yet.

Hopefully, for Marcus and Owen, this can be their breakthrough game together. England had their backs against the wall last week and won, so now those two can be free to really imprint their playing style on this team.

England should be able to play the way the Irish are playing. They have the perfect blend of power game, moving the ball and working as a collective. Andy Farrell is doing a great job there. England have the ability and skill to play like that.

England showed again in the second Test that when it’s them against the world, they will fight 

This last Test is huge and if they can win it but also show progress, that will get everyone excited. If Danny Care comes in and plays like he does every week at Quins, it will be unbelievable.

First Test he was in, then out, then back in, but I hope he plays with a smile on his face, flicks his hair and gets a try early on with a big swan dive. That’s who he is.

Hopefully, he doesn’t try to be England’s Danny Care and just trusts his individual instincts. That’s what they all need to do. I know what it’s like to be in an England squad and feel like you can’t really express yourself fully.

Of course you have to find unity as a team, but you also have to be yourself, so that’s what I want to see today from Danny, Marcus, Owen and all of the players.

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