“It is about surrounding myself with brilliant people. As long as I continue to listen and be open to their feedback hopefully I can stay on the path I’m on now”
Marcus Smith heads into Europe with a to-do list as long as his arm.
It starts with giving Harlequins a winning start to their Champions Cup campaign at French club Castres tomorrow.
And extends to his “long, long term goal to change people’s lives” both here and in the Philippines, where he was born.
The latter might sound ambitious, a little grandiose even, for a 22-year old yet to make his Six Nations debut.
But England’s new fly-half is a man with a plan, which he put to paper in his mid-teens, and insists he is committed to the graft necessary to deliver on it.
“I know I can’t make people here and the Philippines happy and proud of me unless I get my bread and butter done,” said Smith. “Which is to improve my rugby, first and foremost. I’ve got a lot of work to do still.”
This is the player Eddie Jones jumped all over when his spectacular cameo against Tonga last month stole the headlines.
“He is grounded, but they all start off grounded,” said England’s head coach, warning that a “flood of distractions” would turn his head if he wasn’t careful.
Jones got himself into hot water by choosing the example of Emma Raducanu, post US Open tennis triumph, to make his point.
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But Smith welcomed the feedback as “it shows he really cares about me”.
He said: “I know I have to make sure I continue to love my rugby. To have a smile on my face every time I step on the training field and attend meetings, as well as run out on a weekend.
“To keep finding a focus and go after it properly – and keep building myself both as a person and as a rugby player.
“For me it is about surrounding myself with brilliant people. It’s not a straight line but as long as I continue to listen and be open to their feedback hopefully I can stay on the path I’m on now.”
Smith’s younger brothers, Luc and Thomas, are on hand to keep his feet on the floor. Seconds after he fluffed a drop goal attempt against South Africa they texted him laughing emojis.
Then there is Jonny Wilkinson, who is guiding him on how to cope mentally with life at the sharp end. “And just how to live – how to be a good person”.
No surprise then that Smith’s response to kicking the winner against the Springboks was to take himself away to mentally reset, rather than to party.
He sat down and filled a notebook with thoughts of what had gone well, what had not, and the lessons to learn going forward.
“I’m a big believer in setting goals constantly,” he explained. “I believe if you set your mind properly on to something, you can almost achieve anything.”
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Time will tell if it lasts but right now Smith is talking as good a game as he plays. He is a breath of fresh air in rugby.
He might not yet be changing people’s lives, but he has already brightened them.