"Natural Talent" Toby Flood Shares Thoughts on Marcus Smith and Johnny Sexton's 'Tom Brady-like' Career - Ruck

“Natural Talent” Toby Flood Shares Thoughts on Marcus Smith and Johnny Sexton’s ‘Tom Brady-like’ Career

Former England fly-half Toby Flood has praised Marcus Smith, on how well the Harlequin has adapted well into his new-found position at fullback. England Head Coach Steve Borthwick has been utilising Smith in the number 15 jersey, after falling away from the fly-half discussion that is led by Owen Farrell and George Ford.

Marcus Smith of England during the Summer Nations Series Rugby match between Wales and England at Principality Stadium on August 5, 2023 in Cardiff, Wales. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

Smith has made two starts at fullback during the 2023 Rugby World Cup, beginning with his two tries against Chile in the pool stages. Smith has been a frequent feature off the bench for Freddie Steward, and went as far as to keep the Leicester Tigers man out of the match day squad for last weekend’s Quarter-Final, with Smith starting in the win over Fiji.

Smith was left with a heavily busted lip, following a clash of heads in the match with the Pacific Islanders. The 24-year-old battled on well after returning from a blood injury, to lead England towards the Rugby World Cup semi-finals. Former Newcastle and Leicester Tigers man Toby Flood praised Smith’s recent performances in an England jersey. Speaking to BettingSites.co.uk, Flood said:

“The fact that he has been selected means he could become that second pair of eyes, he gets himself in at second receiver, and sometimes first receiver. When Geordie Murphy and I played together at Leicester often he would step into first receiver, and I would slip into second. He was that secondary ball player.

“You see Marcus come into games and light things up. He is a fantastic player full of energy with a really strong skill set. People talk about that wonderful tackle Danny Care made at the end against Samoa, but Smith was the guy who then hit the next guy and dislodged the ball.  He whacked him hard. It has almost been overlooked. 

Marcus Smith of England on the break looks to hand off Pierre Schoeman of Scotland during the Six Nations Championship, Calcutta Cup match between England and Scotland at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on February 4th 2023. – PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

“There might be a question about him under the high ball because if you have a towering wing he can nick it. But in terms of what he brings going forward he then becomes that secondary ball player who wants the ball in his hands and wants to take on the opposition.

“It is not his natural position of course, but can he get away with it because of his natural talent, of course he can.”

Jonathan Sexton, Captain of Ireland looks dejected during the Guinness Six Nations Match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on February 23. – PHOTO: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

The fly-halves were in full focus during last weekend’s quarter-finals, as the rugby world bid farewell to Johnny Sexton. The Ireland talisman hung up his boots, following his sides 24-28 defeat against the All Blacks, with the ‘quarter-final curse’ living on for Andy Farrell’s side. Flood shared his appreciation for Sexton, in how the 38-year-old has stayed at the top of his game for so long, like a certain legendary quarter-back from the NFL.

“It makes me wince to think I am the same age as him! We played under 21s against each other all those years ago. In his favour he doesn’t have to play 50 odd games a year, he is well managed by Leinster and the IRFU.

Andy Farrell, Head Coach of Ireland and Johnny Sexton, Captain of Ireland pose with the Guinness Six Nations trophy during the 2023 Guinness Six Nations Media Launch at County Hall, Lambeth, London on Monday 23rd January 2023 | Photo: James Fearn/PPAUK.

“You have to give credit to the IURFU in terms of central contracts and the need to look after your players. The result of that is seeing one of your key assets, Sexton, still playing at the top of his game at a time when most have long retired.

“I don’t think he is the best fly half in the world if you broke it down purely in terms of skill sets although he is up there, but it is his mental fortitude, his desire to win, and the key component of how he operates and how integral he is to that Ireland team. He is their most important player. He is almost like Tom Brady the legendary NFL quarter back.

Flood then turned his attention to a former England Head Coach in Eddie Jones. Flood never played under Jones at international level, having made his last test match cap in 2014, a year prior to the Australian joining up with the RFU. Jones has been the focus of a lot of unwanted attention, after the Wallabies failed to progress out of the World Cup pool stages, and the rumours of Jones eyeing up a return to Japan.

Eddie Jones, Coach of Barbarians during the The Killik Cup Match between Barbarians and World XV at Twickenham Stadium on 28 May 2023. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

It was heavily reported that Eddie Jones had an interview with the Brave Blossoms, shortly before starting off with Australia’s Rugby World Cup campaign. Despite the speculation, Flood still recognises Jones as a mastermind of the modern rugby landscape, who still has a ‘great rugby brain’.

“There is still something about him. When his back is against the wall he comes out fighting. Whether he has got more time in his locker, I don’t know.

“There is an argument that having fallen off the back of England and now Australia and how he managed them coming into the tournament, that Australia will feel that it is time to have someone who doesn’t bring baggage and the legacy of the past with him.

“He is still a great rugby brain and maybe his ideal role is on a consultancy basis.”