England legend on what Marcus Smith emergence could mean for Owen Farrell
"Mind you, whenever we talk about people that Eddie Jones should pick, he never picks them!"
The 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership season started on Friday night with Saracens reminding all of us they are back and will be looking to make up for lost time. Ben Kay is not the only one that will be closely following their first season back after a short Championship stint.
The former Leicester, England and Lions star is part of the BT Sport team that will be covering the Premiership season in their usual comprehensive manner.
We caught up with Kay ahead of the season opener and got his take on three young Premiership stars to pay close attention to. He also gave his thoughts on who could finish up the season as England captain.
Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
Obviously, there are a few guys that started to break in and, with the Lions in mind, there’s so much pressure on Marcus Smith because of how he performed at the back end of last season. He did well with his opportunities for England when the Lions were away, got his call-up. But I just think that, potentially, all these law changes might suit him well.
And if there’s a time to try any of these new guys, it’s an Autumn Series two years out from a World Cup. That’s when you look at guys and see are they in contention to stay around the squad and make it in two years’ time. And you’ve absolutely got to look at Marcus Smith for that.
He’s probably in pole position, of the people that should be given a chance. Mind you, whenever we talk about people that Eddie Jones should pick, he never picks them, so he probably won’t feature!
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers)
Freddie Steward has probably cemented his place there at fullback [for England]. He was that good and looked that assured at international level. Why wouldn’t Eddie pick him as his fullback now? Particularly with… it’s an area where he hasn’t quite been able to lay his finger on the answer. But, again, the new laws probably play into Steward’s hands a bit, in terms of his assuredness at the back, particularly with that 50/22 kick, and for such a young guy.
Adam Radwan (Newcastle Falcons)
Adam Radwan at Newcastle, if he has a good season, is one to watch. As I said, this autumn is the time to play a few people, even if it’s just the Tonga game. But, as I said, once you’ve got that shot, if you take it, it’s very difficult to drop you, even if you’re not playing the next week. Drop you out of the squad completely.
Kay also believes the England captaincy may be something that Eddie Jones may look closely at, if not in the autumn internationals then in 2022.
"The other massively interesting thing," he says, "will be potentially around captaincy, and whether he thinks, do I stick with what I’ve got? That mindset could come into play with Marcus Smith. Maybe not in the Autumn Series, but what are the other options for captain for England?
"We know what Owen Farrell does for England and how important he is. Do we need to try someone else, in case you don’t want to put Owen Farrell in there. But I just wonder whether Tom Curry might get a shout. He’s pretty much the first name on the team-sheet, plays in a way the leads and is always really composed, off the field, with everything he has done. So that’s an interesting one.
"It’s a bit like the situation where, I’m not comparing them but, Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell. You’ve got two guys that could be fantastic captains, all the way round, all the time."
BT Sport is the home of Gallagher Premiership Rugby. The 2021/22 season kicks off with Leicester Tigers vs. Exeter live on BT Sport 1 on Saturday, September 18 - New Hope. Be part of it all. BT Sport bt.com/sport