Marcus Smith has given up the hottest ticket in football for the chance of a lifetime in rugby.
England’s newest fly-half had a seat reserved at Wembley for today’s European Championship final.
But instead of cheering on the Three Lions he chose to become one and suddenly finds himself 8,000 miles away from the centre of the sporting universe.
Concern for Finn Russell’s damaged Achilles led Warren Gatland to send out an SOS to the 22-year-old yesterday who was informed at Twickenham DURING England’s win over Canada.
Smith was subbed off to be told the news and admitted: “I am shaking, massively overwhelmed.
“I did have a ticket for the football and I still think it is going to come home, but it’s always been my dream to represent the Lions.”
Gatland moved quickly after Russell was ruled out until at least the start of the Lions-South Africa series in a fortnight.
“It isn’t a strained achilles, there is a slight little wee tear in it,” said the Lions’ Kiwi boss. “We are going to try and see if we can rehab him, but if he doesn’t make good progress there is a possibility he may go home.”
The Scottish star was missing in Pretoria last night where the tourists made hard work of beating Sharks for the second time in four days.
They ended up scoring 11 tries and winning with plenty to spare, but that tells nothing of a contest which was locked at 26-26 until Jaden Hendrikse foolishly got himself sent off early in the second half.
“I think a few of us were still in our hotel rooms,” quipped captain Jamie George in reference to Wednesday when the players were forced to isolate until just a couple of hours before kick-off.
“The game got away from us a little bit. We got flustered early on, we reacted poorly to setbacks.”
Three times they fell behind to opponents given no chance after their first choice line-up was battered in Johannesburg three days earlier.
Tries by Chris Harris, George and Tadhg Beirne pegged the scores back level at half-time but the Lions’ error count will have had the Boks licking their lips.
They tightened up a bit after Hendrikse saw red for an elbow to the back of Liam Williams’ head.
Jack Conan, Elliot Daly and George, again, crossed before fresh legs came off the bench to put the game to bed.
Beirne, with his second, and Tom Curry added to the try count before the impressive Anthony Watson scored twice on his first start to put his case for Test selection.
Whether Smith gets that opportunity with just two games before the series starts remains to be seen.
“He’s got a very good attitude and great desire to keep working,” Red Rose boss Eddie Jones said.
“If he doesn’t believe everything that’s written about him he’ll be alright.”
SHARKS – Tries: Volmink 2, Abrahams, Hendrikse, Kok. Cons: Cronje 3.
LIONS – Tries: Harris, George 2, Van der Merwe, Beirne 2, Conan, Daly, A Watson 2, Curry. Cons: Biggar 8.
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