England v Chile: Marcus Smith revels in England's child's play rout

Marcus Smith scores for England against Chile
Smith scored two tries in England’s 71-0 win over Chile

As England’s players chased their white-shirted children around the pitch, an end-of-term feel reigned in Lille.

England had just gleefully run amok through the Chile defence. Henry Arundell, a 20-year-old fresher in the side, had been chief mischief-maker by scoring five of 11 tries in a 71-0 win.

The Mexican waves had swept the stands. The England fans, who had flooded across the Channel and into town on the train, sang long and loud. In a gruelling 2023, full of sweat, toil and plenty of disappointment, for once life was good for England. This post-match moment on the field of play with their families was a reflection of that.

Arundell’s bumper clutch of tries – as many as any England men’s player has scored in a single Test – had made his the irresistible headline-making performance.

It is a special statistic from a special player. All bottom-end power and top-end speed, he is capable of carving up like a doner chef at closing time.

But, in truth, none of his five tries required him to show all that ability.

His fourth was deftly taken with a chip over the cover defence, but for the rest he went in unopposed after Chile’s red wall had been crumbled to dust.

“A lot of those were tap-ins,” said Arundell afterwards.

“It’s the work done up front then the smarts from the inside lads to get the ball wide. I really appreciate all they’ve done for me.”

Henry Arundell and Marcus Smith
Smith struck up a promising understanding with fellow back Arundell

Of more interest to head coach Steve Borthwick will have been the sleeper hit of the performance.

Despite the post-match vibe, this was certainly not an end-of-term match for England. They hope to extend this stay at rugby’s toughest school deep into October, and there were positives to take.

Marcus Smith, switching from 10 to full-back for the first time in his senior career, made errors. A nudged grubber for Arundell during a scoreless opening 19 minutes was too cute for its own good.

On another occasion, he flung a pass over Max Malins when a little patience and another phase would surely have yielded a score.

But the beauty of Chile as an opposition was that whenever a chance was wasted, another would arrive on the horizon soon after.

For a player feeling his way in a new role, the safety net was always there.

And, on the stroke of half-time, Smith showed how effective his high-wire footwork could be from deep.

His try – a scampering dart into space, a well-weighted kick through and victory in the race after it – was as intoxicating a moment as England’s campaign has yet thrown up.

Jason Robinson was the gold standard Smith had set himself earlier in the week.

The 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning full-back, an inch shorter than Smith, could beat his man in a phonebooth or slash a team from stomach to sternum with raw pace.

His mesmerising break to set up Will Greenwood for a try against Wales in the quarter-final 20 years ago was the prime example.

Smith doesn’t match up yet. But the way Chile tacklers struggled to pin down their diminutive target and the way Smith left them choking on his vapour trails brought back memories.

There is also Eddie Jones’ legacy. The Australia coach departed Twickenham last year, leaving England with little preparation time and plenty of problems.

But his experiment of running Smith and Owen Farrell as a 10-12 axis, since abandoned by Borthwick, has not been totally wasted.

Those two were reunited here and dovetailed neatly, with Smith stepping in at first receiver or offering a deeper option out the back, shifting the shape of England’s attack.

After 55 minutes, two became three as George Ford was introduced off the bench.

Against better opposition, three would surely be a crowd – all distribution, not enough penetration – but against Chile it looked smart enough.

That caveat hung over any conclusion.

Before expectations are raised, glance down at Chile – 22nd in the world and ranked lower than any other side in the tournament.

Arundell won’t walk them in and Smith won’t waltz around in as much comfort against anyone else during this campaign.

But with a fortnight until their next game, and a few days off at the start of next week, a performance streaked with running and ambition was a perfect way for England to wind down.

Whether they have the ability, flexibility and confidence to do it again when the pressure winds up is another question.


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