Marcus Smith has been called up to the British and Irish Lions’ squad as injury cover for Finn Russell.
Warren Gatland announced the surprise decision less than an hour before the Lions’ second game against the Sharks kicks off, after Russell pulled out of the game due to an Achilles issue.
Russell will not play in the Lions’ next three matches, but Gatland has said that he is confident that the Scotland fly-half will still play an important role on the tour.
SQUAD UPDATE 📋
Head Coach, Warren Gatland, has called up Harlequins and England fly-half Marcus Smith as injury cover for Finn Russell, who remains with the squad.#LionsRugby #CastleLionsSeries #LionsSA2021 pic.twitter.com/5EmPPPc9I7
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) July 10, 2021
‘I’m impressed with how well he’s matured as a player.’
“We’re obviously disappointed for Finn, who I think has been outstanding since he came into camp in Jersey, but we are optimistic he’ll still play an important role in the tour,” Gatland said.
“We have two experienced fly halves in Owen Farrell and Dan Biggar, so it’s a great opportunity for the continued development of Marcus.
“I’ve been following him closely for the past 12 months and I’ve been impressed with how well he’s matured as a player.
“Finn and Marcus are similar in that they like to play with a bit of freedom, so, for me, it’s as close to a like-for-like cover as we can get. We look forward to welcoming him to the group in Cape Town.”
Marcus Smith’s surprise Lions call-up.
Smith played his first test match for England just a week ago against the USA, but the 22-year-old has been playing excellently for Harlequins for a number of years now.
The maverick fly-half played a crucial role in Harlequins’ Gallagher Premiership triumph this season, and has clearly caught the eye of Gatland off the back of those performances.
The Harlequins man was rumoured to have been included on Gatland’s long-list of players before the official Lions squad announcement, but Ireland captain Johnny Sexton would have been expected to be the fourth-choice fly-half for the touring side.