Marcus Smith has been completing sprint sessions with British Olympic great Daley Thompson in his effort to become one of the sport’s finest playmakers.
Smith has developed into England’s fastest player over short distances due to his searing acceleration, which has been on full display since his shift from fly-half to full-back at the World Cup.
The electric 24-year-old has made a series of influential cameos off the bench and also shone in his only start in the full-back position against Chile, producing a superb solo score as part of a two-try haul.
Smith reveals his pace is the result of sessions with Thompson, the two-time Olympic decathlon gold medallist, as he looks to emulate two famed New Zealand ringmasters.
“For the last five or six years I’ve been working hard on my speed,” Smith said.
“Guys like Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett have the ability to score not just 10-metre tries but from 50 or 60 metres out. That’s something that I’ve wanted to add to my game.
“Credit goes to people who I’ve worked with down in Brighton and Daley Thompson and the guys that I work with in America.
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“They put a lot of effort into me and I’ve loved every minute training with those guys. It’s been a joy and it has definitely opened my eyes to sprinting and speed work.”
Starting Smith at full-back in Sunday’s quarter-final against Fiji is one possible change as England coach Steve Borthwick considers his response to a disappointing climax to Pool D against Samoa.
England scraped past the inspired Islanders 18-17 but it was a backwards step in the wake of three comprehensive victories.
Borthwick has more pressing concerns than whether to swap Freddie Steward for Smith in the number 15 jersey, however, after his creative axis of George Ford and Owen Farrell fired blanks within a poor team performance.
Ford is England’s form fly-half, producing man of the match displays against Argentina and Japan, but the less impressive Farrell is the squad’s captain.
If the experiment of reuniting the duo is to be abandoned, then one of them must be dropped to accommodate the other as chief conductor.
While deficiencies abounded against Samoa, in England’s favour for this weekend’s Marseille showdown is that Fiji have got progressively worse through the group stage, culminating in their shock defeat by Portugal on Sunday night.
But Fiji’s first-ever victory over the red rose at Twickenham in August remains fresh in English minds.
“Fiji were very impressive in the summer and we learnt a lot from that experience. Watching them over the last few weeks I have learnt a lot as well,” Smith said.
“They have got dangerous runners, they have got power across the field, but so do we.
“We are going to prepare as well as we can to negate their threats and put our strengths on the park.”