Who is England’s Next Fly Half?

Rob Andrew, Paul Grayson, Jonny Wilkinson, Charlie Hodgson, Toby Flood, Owen Farrell. England have been blessed with many great fly half’s in their history and currently there is a plethora of young talent primed to usurp the incumbents and become the next great legend as standoff is quickly becoming England’s deepest and most competitive position. In this article I will go through the list of potentials and give my opinion on their chances of wearing the white and red.

Marcus Smith:

Age: 21, Premiership Appearances: 79, Predicted Caps: 50-80

My favourite player to watch in the premiership today, Smith combines speed, flair and footwork with meticulous vision and distribution. Smith has the advantage of being personally scouted and touted by Eddie Jones when he played for Brighton College as a schoolboy so has a good chance of breaking into the national team while Jones remains the head coach. Furthermore, Smith played in the 2018 U20 World Championships taking England to the final before turning down a second appearance in the youth championship to play in the senior England non cap game against the Barbarians with a man of the match performance. He has also cemented himself as the starting fly half at Quins and as one of the best 10’s in the league which has earned him numerous call ups to England training squads as an “apprentice player” and the accolade of top Premiership points scorer in the 2019-2020 season. In my opinion, Smith has a long England career ahead of him as he has the finesse and skill of a Quade Cooper type player but has also already developed his passing and kicking game to become an extremely well rounded and reliable player that can hold his own against any 10 in the world.

Joe Simmonds:

Age: 23, Premiership Appearances: 45, Predicted Caps: 20-40                             

Simmonds is easily the calmest and most composed 23-year-old I have ever seen play, he barely even smiles or even flinches so he definitely has test rugby DNA. He has solidified himself as Chiefs starting 10 ahead of club legend Gareth Steenson and has become one of the league’s best goal kickers with an 84% conversion rate this year. However, he also has a taste for the try line with 4 tries in his short Exeter career including one in a Man of the Match performance in last year’s Semi Final win vs Northampton. As of yet Simmonds has no England training squad call ups or age grade honours but I expect this to change quickly as he keeps getting better and more of a leader with every game and I expect he would have been blooded in this summer’s tour to Japan had it not been cancelled by COVID-19. Furthermore, Simmonds plays for the Chiefs who have many more years of Premiership dominance and championships ahead of them which will play into Simmonds favour and performances.

Jacob Umaga:

Age: 21, Premiership Appearances: 10, Predicted Caps: 0-15

The dark horse of the bunch, Umaga has bags of potential, regardless of the fact he is related to All Blacks legend Tana Umaga the fact is that Jacob has ran the Wasps attack this year in his debut season scoring 4 tries in just 8 starts and forcing All Black star Lima Sopoaga to be dropped and then moved to fullback to make room for him. Furthermore, Umaga was included in England’s most recent training squad in this year’s Six Nations as an “apprentice player” ahead of the more experienced Simmonds and Smith. If Umaga can develop his kicking game and stay fit, I can easily see him playing for England in the next 3 years however he could just as easily be on the fringe his whole career without that extra step up.

James Grayson:

Age: 21, Premiership Appearances: 25, Predicted Caps: 1-5

The long shot of the group Grayson has capitalised on 9 starts in the 10 shirt for Saints this year after Dan Biggar’s injury and has been in fine form. In addition, he has also been to the final of an U20 World Championships with England and is the son of England standoff legend Paul Grayson. Apart from this I don’t see Grayson as anything more than a fine goal kicker and distributer, far from the mercurial talents of Smith and Umaga, and he will have to fight for the 10 shirt with Biggar at Saints for the next few seasons so will struggle for development and game time however he may prove to make a few caps off the bench if selection is stretched.

In conclusion, as you can see Smith is my top pick for England’s next great fly half. Although Ford and Farrell have many years of caps ahead of them expect Smith to make his debut as early as the Lions tour next summer and he will keep on improving in the Quins shirt next year. Also I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 10-12 axis of Simmonds and Smith in 5 years time as Smith would be a more than capable inside centre due to his speed, sound defence and distribution.                                                      

2 thoughts on “Who is England’s Next Fly Half?

  1. Totally agree about Smith. I’m a Quins fan and was worried when Nick Evans was retiring but actually I think he’s better. Great article, you clearly know your stuff. And you write really well. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

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