"Make the 10 Jersey My Own" Fin Smith: Saint Set On Being England's Fly Half After Premiership Title Triumph - Ruck

“Make the 10 Jersey My Own” Fin Smith: Saint Set On Being England’s Fly Half After Premiership Title Triumph

Not content with just winning the 2024 Premiership title, Northampton Saints fly half Fin Smith has already got his sights set on his next objective. The England number 10 jersey hangs in the balance, with the printed name ‘Smith’ already etched across the back. However, the battle remains between Fin and Harlequins talisman Marcus Smith, as to who will lead England’s back-line against Japan and the All Blacks this Summer.

Fin and Marcus Smith have the golden opportunity to showcase themselves this Summer, with George Ford absent from the tour following an unfortunate Achilles injury. With the Sale Man absent from the three matches across Japan and New Zealand, Fin and Marcus will be jostling for position, to see which Smith gets the 10 shirt, and who will have to settle to be the number 22 amongst the replacements.

This goal is already tattooed on the mind of the young Northampton halfback, as even just minutes after he won the Premiership title on the grand stage of twickenham, he turned his sights to the power struggle to be England’s starting halfback.

“100 per cent. I have come off the bench for 10 minutes in Italy and 15 minutes in Scotland and I don’t feel like I have actually made my mark at all on that jersey. So that is the goal, to go into camp on Monday and give it my all and if make my mark and make the 10 jersey my own that would be a massive way to end the season. Fingers crossed.”

Fin Smith of Northampton Saints and Fraser Dingwall of Northampton Saints lifts the winners trophy during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final Match between Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby at Twickenham Stadium on 8 June 2024. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

England head coach Steve Borthwick has previously discussed the two Smith’s chances for the fly half spot, with just two 10s named for the Summer’s festivities. Filling out the ranks of potential fly half candidates is Henry Slade and George Furbank, yet Borthwick believes that the right combination will present itself, should Marcus need to return to fullback like he did throughout the Rugby World Cup.

“We’ve picked two specialist fly-halves in Marcus and Fin. They are two world class fly-halves.” Borthwick said in Monday’s England media session. “We also have players who can support them – George Furbank has played plenty of minutes at fly-half, as well as Henry Slade.”

“We’re disappointed George (Ford) is unavailable for selection for this series. I expect him to be fit at the start of next season. He should recover from the injury throughout this summer. Any injury to a player is an opportunity for another player. I expect Marcus and Fin to seize the opportunity by producing winning performances.”

Fin Smith of Northampton Saints during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final Match between Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby at Twickenham Stadium on 8 June 2024. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“One of the key balances for a coach is always the space you give the players to lead. In the past this England team has been criticised for not having leaders. What I have seen is a real depth of leadership which I need to give the space to lead.

“Now, clearly normally I am carrying three fly-halves in the squad, we carried three fly-halves in the World Cup, three fly-halves during the Six Nations. Now this one there’s only two specialist position fly-halves. Clearly that gives them more space. I started George Ford in all five of the Six Nations games, clearly there is an opportunity for a different starting fly-half, going to be playing against Japan in 12 days’ time, the opportunity is there for that fly-half to really grab this team and take it forward.

Steve Borthwick, Head Coach of England during the England Captains Run at Twickenham Stadium, London on 9 February 2024 (Photo: George Beck/PPAUK)

“Always being supported by the other fly-half, that is a key element. You need depth of players and Marcus’s ability, be clear… Marcus is a 10 who can play 15. That gives the ability that potentially there is a situation where Fin and Marcus are on the pitch together.”

Fin Smith showcased his talents from the boot in the Premiership Final, and channelled his inner George Ford with a neatly struck drop goal. Having watch the Sale man nail three-pointers routinely throughout the Rugby World Cup and subsequent Six Nations, Smith sent an effort of his own sailing through the uprights, much to the delight of the green, black and gold contingent in the Twickenham crowd.

Fin Smith takes a conversion during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final Match between Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby at Twickenham Stadium on 8 June 2024. Photo: Elli Birch/PPAUK

“In all honesty, I was just thinking ‘we are going nowhere’. I hit the post with the first penalty and I was like ‘right, let’s get your mind back’. I thought it was a shot to nothing, we were going nowhere, if you miss the ball back, if not you get one back for the boys and they deserved those three points at the start that I missed. That was nice to get that away.”

Northampton’s Director of Rugby Phil Dowson expressed in the post-match media, how Smith is his own harshest critic by no stretch of the imagination. Never settling for a sub-par performance, Dowson discussed how the young halfback would have been frustrated by his performance, that saw him withdrawn with a calf cramp for the final 10 minutes.

Fin Smith of Northampton Saints tackled by Will Stuart of Bath Rugby during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final Match between Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby at Twickenham Stadium on 8 June 2024. Photo: Mat Mingo/PPAUK

Smith reassured that his injury was no more than a brief hinderance, and that he will be back at his playmaking best in time for the England tour. Admitting that he is his own biggest motivator, the Saints fly half said:

“I have not really had time for any of it to sink in but I look back to what I have done in the last three seasons and I have never really been happy with what I have done on the pitch. This is the first year I have been pleased at times with what I have done.

“I have worked incredibly hard, I gave myself a bit of a talking to at the end of last season and said ‘if you want to be this guy that is remembered for what you want to be remembered for, and do all the things you want to do you are going to have to start working really hard’, and I have tried to do that.

Fin Smith of Northampton Saints during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final Match between Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby at Twickenham Stadium on 8 June 2024. Photo: George Beck/PPAUK

“It didn’t work out today with what happened today but I feel like I have grown a lot as person and as a player this year and I have loved it. It was a good way to finish it off.

Smith had to watch on for the final moments of the match, as Tom James stood in at first receiver. The England fly half could barely bring himself to watch the final play of the match, as Northampton were pinned back on their try-line, with Bath hammering repetitive pick drives towards the whitewash. Smith described the feeling of elation as ‘unbelievable’ when Alex Mitchell sent the ball skyward into the Twickenham crowd.

Alex Waller of Northampton Saints, Fin Smith of Northampton Saints and Sam Matavesi of Northampton Saints clebrating the win during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final Match between Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby at Twickenham Stadium on 8 June 2024. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

“I think I did my first ever prayer, which is a bit weird. Then I was like ‘we have lost, we have lost, we have lost it’ then the ball stripped it at the end and I was trying not to cry at the end, it was unbelievable. Alex Waller grabbed me and he was pretty emotional. To do that for those guys, him, Courtney (Lawes) and Luds (Lewis Ludlam) to give them something to go out on, because they deserve it.”

“We are going to celebrate tonight, celebrate tomorrow and then I will try and slap myself in the face a few times and try and wake up to meet up with the boys in (England) camp on Monday. I have spoken to Wiggy (Richard Wigglesworth) the attack coach and he sort of said, ‘We are expecting you to be not in your best state’, but I am looking forward to linking up with those boys. It is going to be a great summer.