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Owen Farrell believes the fast-rising Marcus Smith is “a massive talent” and says he is keen to help the Harlequins fly-half fulfil his potential with England this autumn. Farrell, who sits on 99 Test caps, has also made clear he would be happy to play at centre with Smith wearing No 10 if Eddie Jones opts for that combination against Tonga next week.

With a reshuffled England squad preparing in Jersey for the November internationals, Farrell has been impressed by Smith’s enthusiasm for the game and believes the two of them can dovetail nicely, if required, at Twickenham next month. “He’s a massive talent and a very exciting player,” said Farrell, who has won 93 caps for England and six for the Lions.

“He is a brilliant lad and not just a very talented player but a proper student of the game. He seems like he is confident because, for me, he has done the work. He understands the game and knows exactly what he wants to get out of it. He speaks sense and that helps when it comes to playing in the position he does. He is doing that really well at the minute.”

If Smith starts at 10, however, it would almost certainly mean Farrell wearing the 12 jersey on Saturday week. The pair have yet to develop the same innate understanding Farrell used to enjoy with his longtime friend George Ford but England’s captain is adamant he will do whatever is best for the squad.

“I’m only bothered about working hard for the team and making sure I’m doing the best I can for them. Whatever fits best for the group, I will be happy with.”

The 30-year-old Farrell clearly recognises the 22-year-old Smith represents England’s future but does not regard himself as indispensable despite a fine start to the season playing 10 for Saracens. “I have never thought anyone was undroppable,” said Farrell. “You’re waiting for a phone call to see if you’re picked. You don’t want to expect too much. You always have to work hard to be in this team.

“Marcus is someone who loves talking rugby and trying to understand the game a bit better. If I can help him do that in any way, I’d love to. His passion for the game, it oozes out of him. He’s someone who can unlock a game but he’s also got a brilliant eye for how to make a team work as well. You want to make sure he keeps that sort of balance and he’s got the attitude to do so, hopefully for a long time.”

Whatever lineup Jones chooses, it will be a fresh-looking England combination with the Vunipola brothers conspicuous absentees. Farrell also suggests there will be a new approach. “Hopefully, we will bring something a bit different. We have new coaches, we have new players and we want to evolve.

“The big thing for us is being aggressive in the way we play but we also need to be ready to play any which way the game allows us to. There’s a fair amount of changes and that gives it a bit of a different feel. The team has a blend of experience and youth.”

Ireland’s captain Johnny Sexton, meanwhile, says he also remains fully motivated, at the age of 36, to keep representing his country. Sexton is poised to win his 100th Irish cap against Japan next week but is refusing to tempt fate by celebrating prematurely. “If I get picked it will be a very special thing. When you get your first cap aged 24 you never think you’ll get to 100.”Wales, already hit by injury and unavailability, have now suffered a Covid outbreak in the buildup to the Test with New Zealand on Saturday.

The centre Willis Halaholo has tested positive, prompting a call-up for the Scarlets’ midfielder Scott Williams. The Welsh Rugby Union says it is “working closely” on the matter with Public Health Wales.