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Fin Smith has set his sights on making his England debut next year knowing he has already caught the eye of Steve Borthwick.
Head coach Borthwick was present at Franklin’s Gardens to watch Smith orchestrate Northampton’s 34-19 Gallagher Premiership victory over Exeter on Sunday with a classy man of the match display.
Battered and bruised from taking on the Chiefs’ defence, the 21-year-old’s pain was eased by recognition from the man he must convince.
“I saw Steve on the big screen at one point and thought ‘oh s***!’. He dropped me a nice message after the game to say he thought it went well, which was good,” Smith said.
“I set out a few goals for myself at the start of the season and at the top of that list was getting a cap for England this season.
“It’s a cliché answer but I’ve got to make sure I’m doing well for my club and hopefully the recognition will come from Steve.”
Smith also qualifies for Scotland through his parents but has his heart set on playing for England having been included in the extended training squads for this year’s Six Nations and the World Cup.
Although a first cap is his immediate aim, he realises the presence of Owen Farrell, George Ford and Marcus Smith means that competition for the Red Rose number 10 jersey has never been fiercer.
“There are some brilliant fly-halves ahead of me in Owen, George and Marcus, but if the opportunity came I’d be delighted and more than ready to go,” said Smith, who joined Saints after Worcester’s financial collapse last season.
“I’ve got so many things I need to keep working at to get to the level of Owen, George and Marcus.
“I’ve just got to focus on playing well. Selection if I get picked would be great, if not I’ll just keep working hard. Hopefully I’ll get there eventually.”
Smith completed three weeks of the World Cup training camp before being cut from the squad when numbers were reduced, but he left with a clear picture of what he must do to challenge the current pecking order.
“Steve has given me the feedback that I have a strong kicking game and I can manage a game quite well,” he said.
“The way we play at Northampton traditionally has been to move the ball and run a lot.
“Steve felt he hadn’t seen as much of my kicking game when I’ve been playing for Northampton so he’s challenged me to find ways to control matches with my kicking, while continuing to find space, which he thinks is one of my big strengths.
“So this season I’ve been working really hard to find a balance of when to run and do the stuff that people associate with Northampton, but when the opportunities aren’t there to put pressure on the opposition with a chip in behind or trying to find grass with my boot.”
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