Ronan O’Gara has praised Warren Gatland’s decision to call up Marcus Smith to the British and Irish Lions squad.
Smith won his first cap for England just six days ago, but the 22-year-old has been in brilliant form for Harlequins all year, and has been called in by Gatland to act as injury cover for Finn Russell.
Former Ireland and Lions fly-half O’Gara was speaking on Sky Sports about Smith’s call-up and gave his opinion on why Gatland chose the English youngster instead of the experienced Johnny Sexton.
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
‘He’s someone who can potentially alter a game after 50 minutes.’
“I think it’s unbelievably exciting for a 22-year-old. Imagine his feeling coming off at Twickenham, he’s delighted, and all of a sudden he’s getting on a plane to go down to South Africa,” O’Gara said.
“I agree with [Ian McGeechan] in that it is like for like. I think it would probably be a different decision if Owen Farrell or Dan Biggar got injured.
“I think that’s when you have a goal-kicking 10 coming out, like Johnny Sexton, someone like that who can manage the game.
“This is a very smart move in that it is like for like and it is a bit of a Mulligan in that you try and introduce him with very little pressure – and he’s someone who can potentially alter a game after 50 minutes.”
Expect Marcus Smith to excite in South Africa.
While Smith may not have the experience or game management skills that Sexton possesses, the youngster is a dynamic fly-half that will excel in the types of games that the Lions have played in so far in South Africa.
The Harlequins play-maker is similar in many ways to Russell, who will remain with the Lions squad as there is still a chance the Scotsman will be fit in time for the three tests against the Springboks.
While it is unlikely that Smith will play any role in the test series against the Springboks, he will likely feature in one of the two games against either South Africa A or the Stormers.