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Six Nations: Marcus Smith relishes link-up with childhood icon Manu Tuilagi as England prepare for Wales clash

Manu Tuilagi was recalled to the England squad for a five-day training camp ahead of the Six Nations clash with Wales after recovering from injury; "He's a brilliant player," fly-half Marcus Smith said. "When I was young, I used to watch him play."

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Marcus Smith says he is looking forward to teaming up with his childhood icon Manu Tuilagi when England face Wales at Twickenham on February 26

Manu Tuilagi’s return to the England set-up has brought back memories of his youth for up-and-coming star Marcus Smith.

Centre Tuilagi has been recalled to Eddie Jones' squad for this week's five-day training camp ahead of the upcoming Six Nations showdown with Wales at Twickenham after recovering from a hamstring injury and could well form part of the 10-12 axis with fly-half Smith.

The duo were part of the same squad for last year's Autumn Nations Series and Smith, 23, is excited by the prospect of lining up with the 30-year-old again on February 26 after spending his childhood marvelling him and one of his predecessors in the No. 10 shirt, the great Jonny Wilkinson.

"He's a brilliant player," Smith said. "When I was young, I used to watch him play. I think I even watched his first try at Twickenham, the dummy-switch with Jonny Wilkinson [against Wales in 2011].

"We played a couple of games together in the autumn. It's brilliant to have him back in camp, he's a ball of energy.

"He's a brilliant ball carrier. But I think his skillset is undervalued. He can pass off both hands very well. All our centres are massive threats at the line and good carriers in their own right."

Just as Tuilagi did when he burst onto the scene with some blockbusting performances in England's midfield over a decade ago, Smith has made a big impact on the international stage since earning his first Test cap in last summer's 43-29 win over the USA.

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England players from left, Nick Easter, Matt Stevens, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny Wilkinson and Matt Banahan react after defeating Argentina 13-9 in their Rugby World Cup pool B match at the Otago Stadium, in Dunedin New Zealand, Saturday, Sept., 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Image: Manu Tuilagi and Jonny Wilkinson formed a potent combination for England

The Harlequins man was named player of the match for his role in England's 33-0 win over Italy on Sunday following defeat in their Six Nations opener to Scotland - a game in which he scored all of England's points in a 20-17 defeat.

England head coach Jones was effusive in his praise of Smith in the wake of the win in Rome and believes there is no limit to what he can achieve in his rugby union career.

"There's no ceiling to how good he can be," he said.

"If he keeps on wanting to get better and keeps having a learning mindset, then he could be an outstanding player at Test level by the World Cup. That's obviously pretty important, to have a good 10.

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Eddie Jones praised his England side's intensity and hailed the 33-0 victory over Italy as a great step forward for the rest of their Six Nations campaign

"The forwards definitely went forward and that created opportunities for Marcus. We were very intentful with how we wanted to play. That also helped him."

There has, at times, been questions over Jones' management of Smith, particularly in the wake of the Calcutta Cup loss at Murrayfield when the Australian brought him off with 17 minutes of the game remaining and England holding a slender lead.

But Smith could not be happier with life working under Jones and feels he is being pushed to go on to achieve his undoubted potential.

"He has been brilliant with me, pushed me and given me good feedback," Smith said. "Our dialogue has been very open and I'm learning a lot off Eddie.

"He is pushing me to get me to where I want to get to in my career and where he wants to get this team to."

Randall: No split loyalties for Wales clash

Meanwhile, Smith's half-back partner during the win over Italy in Harry Randall is preparing for the possibility of facing the nation he represented as a teenager.

Although born in Slough, Bristol Bears scrum-half Randall moved to Wales at the age of four and first played rugby with Tycroes, going on to represent Llandovery College and Wales U16s.

Italy v England - Guinness Six Nations - Stadio Olimpico
England's Harry Randall during the Guinness Six Nations match at Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy. Picture date: Sunday February 13, 2022.
Image: Harry Randall played much of his childhood rugby in Wales

But he had always maintained the ambition of playing for England, along supporting them during the annual clashes with Wales, and having earned his second Test cap when starting in last week's win in Rome he is looking forward to possibly being involved again on February 26.

"Growing up, the England versus Wales fixture was always a big one," Randall said. "It was funny growing up watching England-Wales games with a few mates who were Welsh.

"I was supporting England and they were supporting Wales, so there was a bit of banter flying around when we used to watch those games. I look back on those with fond memories."

"I've said previously, I've always classed myself as English and a goal of mine was to play for England. If involved, I'll be very grateful for the opportunity."

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