Marcus Smith is the new golden boy of English rugby, and he can’t seem to put a foot wrong in his young career.
He had an outstanding season with Harlequins, helping them to the Premiership title when nobody gave them much of a chance. His fantastic showings were not limited to club rugby as he showed his abilities on the international stage with match-winning performances in the victories over Tonga, Australia and South Africa in November.
He is renowned for his attacking mindset and skills, but showed great game management, especially against the Springboks. He did not have much chance to show off his famed sidestep, but it was on display throughout the Gallagher Premiership. When asked about how he learned the sidestep, his answer was that it came from Sevens greats William Ryder and Waisale Serevi. Serevi is regarded by many as the greatest Sevens player to have ever played the game. It is hard to dispute this assessment as he changed the face of Sevens.
Smith lived in Asia during his childhood and his parents took him to the greatest Sevens tournament in the world, the Hong Kong Sevens. He visited the tournament six times and was always amazed by the skillset shown by the stars on show. He was particularly impressed by the Fijians and the sidestep of the legendary Serevi.
When he went home with his family, he would practice trying to dodge his brothers when they played touch rugby in the backyard. The initial days of the Marcus Smith rugby sidestep was born out of his family home. With all due respect to the great Fijians and their wizardry on the Sevens fields, it is all the more astonishing that Smith can produce those moments in the 15-man game, which is so congested compared the Sevens field, which has a total of 14 players.
Smith has been known in rugby circles since the age of 18, but only in the last year have his performances catapulted to such an extent that he was called up to the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa. Although he did not play in any of the tests, he already looks like the frontrunner to be the next Lions fly-half.
His sidestep has always been impressive, and together with his pace he can be a handful for any defence, but it is a more recent addition to his game that has taken him to new heights. Smith always looked to run the ball, but in the last 12 months, he has developed his kicking game brilliantly. The opposition now have to be aware of his attacking kicks as well as his well-documented running game. In a strange twist, this has helped his running game – the opposition defence is deep expecting the kick, but this gives him more space to run into and bamboozle them with his side step.
Long may this continue as nothing excites the fans like the Smith sidestep.