The two most impressive teams this past week in European Professional Rugby Club (EPRC) competition were perhaps the Harlequin F.C. and the Exeter Chiefs. And in those games, Marcus Smith and Will Joseph were superb in Harlequins’ scintillating win over Racing 92 in Paris.
On Saturday afternoon, the Chiefs were equally impressive in downing mighty Toulon. It has given a much-needed boost to a struggling Gallagher Premiership group of clubs, writes Charlie Inglefield.
Marcus Smith and Will Joseph rugby duo were superb in Harlequins’ win
Rugby fans around the globe have been spoilt for excellent games in 2023. In Paris on Sunday evening, there were few better than Racing 92 v Harlequins. A 31-28 win to Quins finished off a pulsating weekend’s action in the European Rugby Champions Cup. The intensity and pace of the game were as good as a test match and both sides ran the ball from everywhere. With one eye on the upcoming 2024 Six Nations, Joseph made an emphatic statement to Steve Borthwick, the England coach.
The centre position has been a problem area for a while with the England rugby team. The form of Joseph, veteran Manu Tuilagi, Ollie Lawrence and Henry Slade over the weekend will warm the hearts of English rugby fans. Joseph in particular has stepped up in the last few weeks for Quins. Big, fast and athletic Joseph ticks the boxes for a modern-day centre. Joseph has settled in well at the Stoop having been picked up from London Irish last season. In keeping with the way Harlequins like to play, he has fitted in beautifully alongside Smith and André Esterhuizen.
Against Racing 92, Joseph showcased all of his talents against an outstanding team. Joseph constantly punctured the Racing defense, making precious yards by staying on his feet and using his pace. Joseph’s lines of rugby are akin to what his brother, Jonathan, did so well over the years with Bath and England. If he carries on like this with an inform Harlequins outfit, Joseph will be in the Six Nations squad.
Smith making an undeniable claim
Smith was outstanding against table-toppers Sale last weekend. He backed it up again against Racing 92 with the complete performance that Borthwick will be looking out for. The number ten jumper against Italy in the 2024 Six Nations opener will be either George Ford or Smith. In the last two weeks Smith has surely claimed the starting jumper. The fact that Smith and Joseph are playing together at club level could be significant for England in the 2024 Six Nations.
READ MORE: England rugby’s starting team for the 2024 Six Nations
In Paris against a dynamic Racing 92 team Smith picked them apart with ease. The show and go for his try was world-class as was his flair throughout. Quins were breathtaking in attack and Smith was at the heart of it. Borthwick is not known for his attacking intent, an area that must be a priority as they start the next four year cycle to the 2027 World Cup. He could fail to be impressed by how well Smith managed the game in Paris. Arguably, the moment of the match was the 45 metre drop goal that Smith launched just before half-time. Quins won the game by three points – a fact that will not be lost by Borthwick. Smith and Joseph were superb throughout – they could be lining up in national colours come February.
Photo Credit: James Marsh/Shutterstock (14249307el) of the Harlequins Rugby Union Facebook Page on December 10, 2023.