Assistant coach Kevin Sinfield admitted that England are looking at switching mercurial flyhalf Marcus Smith to fullback for the World Cup.
Smith arrives at the tournament in France as England’s third-choice flyhalf behind Owen Farrell, who is suspended for Saturday’s group stage opener against Argentina, and George Ford.
But a couple of cameos off the bench at fullback during a disjointed World Cup build-up has created some excitement around Smith’s potential to switch roles.
“You’ll have all seen what a magician he is with the ball,” backline coach Sinfield told reporters at England’s tournament base in northern France.
“He can step off both feet, he’s quick, he can beat players for fun, so why not try and give him a bit more time and space than he would typically get at 10? Try and get him a little bit wider.
“We’ve been working on it for some weeks now with him in training.”
Sinfield revealed that when approached about the possible positional switch, Smith admitted he had never played at fullback before but “would love to.”
Standing at just five feet nine inches and weighing just over 80 kilogrammes, Smith is dwarfed by England’s regular No 15 Freddie Steward.
Sinfield insisted that playing Smith, 24, at fullback would not require a change of tactics or style, although he admitted the flyhalf’s skill set was completely different to Steward’s.
“It would be crazy of us to put Marcus in the team and not try to put the ball in his hands and give him space to attack,” Sinfield told reporters.
“Now, is it a different attacking threat to Fred? As you rightly point out, Fred is 6-feet 4-inches and 105 kilogrammes, so he brings a different threat to Marcus when he carries the ball.
“But you guys have seen Marcus and reported on Marcus and seen what he can do with the ball: he’s a magician.”
The extra fullback option “brings something different, it gives us that variation.”
Veteran scrumhalf Danny Care, a Harlequins teammate of Smith’s, believes England simply have to find any way they can to get him in the team.
“It amazes me how he keeps getting better, the potential he has is frightening,” said Care.
Even with Farrell missing England’s first two pool stage matches against Argentina and Japan through suspension, Ford is still likely to get the nod over Smith at flyhalf.
“You’d love to have all three of them on the pitch,” said Care.
“Marcus is one of the brilliant players we’ve got here. The idea is to get him on the ball in space and to do that we’ve got to run hard and win some collisions and get some quick ball.”
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