Marcus Smith hopes Harlequin wins will open door to Eddie's kingdom

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Playing under pressure - Marcus Smith.

Marcus Smith hopes to produce a string of first-rate Harlequins performances to convince Eddie Jones to select him as one of England’s premier fly-halfs.

Smith bagged a personal record 26-point haul in Saturday’s season-opening 51-23 Premiership win over Sale at The Stoop.

The 19-year-old steered Quins intelligently as the Twickenham men kick-started Paul Gustard’s coaching reign with a six-try, bonus-point victory.

Smith has appeared as an “apprentice” in previous senior England squads, before helping the under-20s to this summer’s Junior World Championship final.

The precociously-talented teenager has big ambitions for his career, but remains adamant he will have to earn England boss Jones’ interest through consistency and graft.

“Obviously it’s every kid’s dream to play for England, that’s my goal at the end of the day, but I need to let my performances do the talking here and hopefully get Eddie (Jones) calling me – hopefully,” said Smith.

“My focus is here at Quins, that’s one game, I’ve done alright this game but there’s still a long way to go and like I said there’s a big test on Friday night (at Northampton) and hopefully I can carry the performance today and take it into next week along with the team.”

Owen Farrell, George Ford and Danny Cipriani – barring any influence on boss Jones’ thoughts from his arrest in Jersey – are England’s current frontline playmakers.

But Jones has long since admired Smith’s potential to develop into a top-level outside-half, and on Saturday’s evidence the young Quin is continuing his upward trajectory.

England lost the summer’s Junior World Championship final 33-25 to hosts France, but Smith starred in that tournament – and feels it has proved beneficial as he embarks on his second season as a senior pro.

“I learned a lot from that under-20s experience,” said Smith.

“I learned how to take control and try and lead a team, and I tried to take what I learned from the seniors experience into that World Cup. Unfortunately we fell at the last hurdle but I really enjoyed that experience.”

Debutant Ben Tapuai bagged two tries in Saturday’s Sale win, with Smith then hailing the Wallabies centre for easing the playmaking burden.

And Smith also believes new Quins boss Gustard can have a big impact on the Londoners, who struggled en route to an 11th place league finish last term.

Smith is developing a good relationship with Ben Tapuai

Smith is developing a good relationship with Ben Tapuai

“He’s brought a lot of energy, Gussy’s very enthusiastic at what he does, and I think it feeds well onto the group,” said Smith, of Gustard.

“I hope you saw there we were all energised for the full 80 and that’s something we hope to bring for the rest of the season.

“Obviously I want to add a bit of control to my game. I love playing with the ball in hand and I’ll just try to give and go there.

“Taps (Ben Tapuai) has got a lot of experience, played for the Wallabies a lot of times so having him outside, bouncing ideas off him and trying to learn off him as well is really good and really helpful.

“He gives me the information, so if he sees they’re short and he wants the ball early I’ll try and communicate to Danny (Care) to get the ball early to him and unleash our backs.

“He’s just a second pair of eyes that help me try and manage the game.”

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Leicester Tigers axe head coach Matt O’Connor just one game into season

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Matt O'Connor has been axed by Leicester

In what must be a new record for speedy dismissals Leicester Tigers have today announced the departure of head coach Matt O’Connor with immediate effect – just one game into the new season.

Assistant coach Geordan Murphy, an eight-time Premiership title winner and double European champion in 16 years as a player at Tigers, will take charge of team affairs on an interim basis.

O’Connor began his second spell at the club in the closing rounds of the 2016/17 season and guided Tigers into the Premiership semi-finals at the end of that campaign before a fifth-place finish the following year.

In their first round match on Saturday they were thrashed 40-6 at Exeter Chiefs.

Leicester Tigers club chairman Peter Tom CBE said: “Matt was appointed head coach in April 2017 on the basis of his previous Premiership experience and his knowledge of the club. But we believe the time is right to make this change in the best interests of the Tigers moving forward.

“We would like to thank Matt for his hard work and commitment to the club in two spells at Welford Road, and we wish him and his family well for the future.”

Former Tigers captain Murphy will assume control of team affairs immediately alongside coaches Mark Bakewell, Boris Stankovich and Brett Deacon.

Tom added: “As a club, Leicester Tigers will always aspire to challenge for major honours in the incredibly competitive arena of professional elite club rugby and everyone at the club will fully support Geordan and the management group in driving the team forward.

“Geordan knows the expectations and ambitions of the Tigers as well as anyone after more than 20 years here as player and coach, and we wish him and the team the very best for the challenges ahead.”

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Bristol Bears get good news on former All Blacks star Charlies Piutau's injury

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Charles Piutau should be back by the end of October

Bristol Bears have been boosted with the news that Charles Piutau does not require surgery and could be available for selection by late October.

It was initially feared that the full back – who sustained a shoulder injury in the pre-season defeat to Connacht – could have been ruled out for 4-6 months.

However, following a surgical consult on Saturday, it was confirmed that Piutau would not require surgery.

The All Black will work with Rory Murray and the club’s medical team throughout the rehabilitation process to return to full fitness.

Head coach Pat Lam said: “We had some really positive news regarding Charles’ shoulder following the surgical consult and it’s great that he won’t be sidelined for too long.

“We don’t want to lose somebody of Charles’ ability for any amount of time, but that’s the nature of the sport and it really underlines the importance of having depth and quality in every position.

“Charles is a hugely positive person and he’s raring to go with his recovery. He’s desperate to play for Bristol Bears and contribute to the team. He will play a big part for the club this season and will be in the mix, battling for a place in the side, in the not too distant future.”

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