HARLEQUINS boss Paul Gustard reckons new assistant coach Sean Long could turn Marcus Smith into a mainstay of the England team for years to come.
League legend Long was recruited as Quins’ new attack coach by Gustard over a few beers in a pub and is currently working his magic on the squad in pre-season.
Smith has seemingly fallen out of favour as the heir apparent to England’s regular fly-halves, Owen Farrell and George Ford, and has still to win a senior cap despite being in and around the national squad for the last couple of years.
Explaining his decision to turn to Long, Gustard said: “As a club, we have a DNA or a history of playing expansive, entertaining rugby but I felt there were certain gaps in what we did last season that I felt a pair of Rugby League eyes could fill.
“That was borne out of being a league fan myself and having visited teams like Melbourne Storm, New Zealand Warriors, Warrington, Leeds and Wigan.
“I wanted that eye for detail; isolating a defender, breaking down a drift-defence, taking the ball to the line, creating space and mis-matches and disguising passes.
“In Union, I think we tend to coach the shape and structure first rather than the skill and detail within the shape – we almost make the game more complicated than it needs to be.
“I began to look around and I spoke to Andy Farrell about him, and other people I knew in the game.
“I’d heard a lot of good things about Longy’s attention to detail, so I jumped on a train to Manchester and met him in a pub. He was animated, on his feet and demonstrating passing so three pints later, we had a deal.”
Gustard has no concern over Long’s lack of union knowledge.
He added: “I felt straight away that the fact he doesn’t know our code so well was irrelevant.
“What he does know is how to attack and break down defences. He was one of the greatest-ever league players and you can see how exciting St Helens are to watch now.
“Most league guys have come across to Rugby Union as defence coaches, but it’s happening now in attack as well.
“We have some very gifted young players, such as Marcus Smith, James Lang and Niall Saunders, so for them to be working with someone of Sean’s quality is brilliant. He could be the guy that makes Marcus Smith a 100-cap England player.”
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