Marcus Smith is relishing the chance to test himself against “brilliant” Dan Biggar in Round 3 of the Guinness Six Nations after revealing how the pair bonded over a game of cards.
The two No.10s will be reunited next weekend (February 26) when England host defending champions Wales at Twickenham, having both toured with The British & Irish Lions last summer in South Africa.
Smith was a late call up for the Lions as injury cover for Scotland fly-half Finn Russell and Biggar, who made his 100th Test appearance against Scotland last week, wasted no time welcoming his inexperienced opposite number.
“Dan’s a brilliant guy,” said 23-year-old Smith. “He invited me to my first game of cards out in South Africa, which was nice. He didn’t have to do that.
“All the Welsh boys invited me to that. I lost a tenner – they were stealing my money!
“Dan was very accommodating and very welcoming. He brought me up to speed with the playbook quickly and the way they wanted to play out there.
“He always greeted me with a smile on his face, and we worked really closely together with our kicking, and I learned a lot about the game from him, Finn Russell and Owen [Farrell] as well.
“I’m very grateful because I’ve been brought up in a rugby-mad family. My dad is an extremely proud Englishman, and he always told me how big the Wales game is.
“If I get the opportunity to play in the game, I know how much it will mean to not only my dad but every other proud English fan in the country.”
Smith has been central to England’s attack during the 2022 Guinness Six Nations, scoring their only try and four penalties in the 20-17 loss against Scotland before crossing the whitewash again in the 33-0 win against Italy.
Wales have also had a mixed start to this year’s campaign, being beaten 29-7 against Ireland before recovering to beat Scotland 20-17.
Smith is poised to marshal a new midfield after Manu Tuilagi was called into Eddie Jones’ training squad, having proved his fitness for Sale in the wake of hamstring surgery.
Smith added: “Manu’s a brilliant player. Even when I was very young, I used to watch him play, and I even watched his first try at Twickenham, which was quite special – the dummy switch with Jonny Wilkinson.
“To be able to play with him is special. I played one or two games with him in the autumn. It’s brilliant to have him back in camp. He’s a ball of energy, and all the boys love him.
“All of our centres are very different in the way they play. Manu’s a brilliant ball carrier, but his skill set is undervalued. He can pass off both hands very well, he can go to the line, tip, dummy – do the whole lot.
“As with our other centres, they’re all massive threats and good carriers in their own rights.”