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Fin Smith interview: ‘Everyone says I’m a rugby pig and a bit of a nause’

Fin Smith of Northampton Saints/Fin Smith interview: People say I'm a nause but I wouldn't take a rugby ball to a desert island
Northampton Saints fly-half Fin Smith is tipped from a bright future with England - Getty Images/Matthew Lewis

If seeming like a ‘nause’ is what it takes to win, Fin Smith will embrace it.

The 22-year-old Northampton Saints fly-half, voted players’ player of the season by fellow Rugby Players Association (RPA) members, was recently teamed up with Tommy Freeman for a game of ‘Mr and Mr’.

As part of the challenge, filmed by a sponsor, the pair were asked what they would bring to a desert island. They agreed, independently, that a rugby ball would be Smith’s luxury item.

“I knew he was going to take the p--- because everyone says I’m a rugby pig and a bit of a nause,” Smith laughs. “So I sort of double-bluffed him and guessed the same... To be clear, I wouldn’t actually take a rugby ball to a desert island. I was just trying to score points.”

The RPA prize is another endorsement of Smith’s progress. As it happens, he voted for Benhard Janse van Rensburg, the Bristol Bears centre, for a third-consecutive campaign. Yet Smith is a worthy winner. His calm stewardship steered Saints to the top of the Premiership, earning a home semi-final against Saracens.

‘I always knew I’d have to be the hardest-working guy’

An illustrious shortlist also featured Ben Earl and Finn Russell alongside two Northampton colleagues in Courtney Lawes and Trevor Davison. Recognition for the latter thrilled Smith, who hails Davison’s “unbelievable” impact since trading Newcastle Falcons for Northampton last year and backs the tighthead prop for England selection this summer.

Smith also uses Davison to illuminate one of his own roles: distilling hours of video analysis into messages that are digestible enough to be delivered – and received by team-mates – on the hoof during games. Then there is the additional filter of which players need to hear what.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a ridiculously talented guy,” says Smith. “I’m not fast, I’m not the biggest, I don’t have the skills of Marcus [Smith] and people like that, so I always said to myself that to go far in this job, I’d have to be the hardest-working guy.

“We’ve got this video app called Hudl that we review training on and I’d like to think that I spend more time on there than the majority of lads. What’s been important for me is [thinking about] what certain people need to know. It’s different for each player as you refine the messages about your attack or the overall game plan and what’s going to be important [to them], rather than ramming every bit of knowledge down people’s throats.

“Trevor is 140kg and he’s thinking about scrummaging, tackling and carrying. He doesn’t care about our kicking strategy and stuff like that. That’s been a real area of growth for me.”

Eloquent, mature and more talented than he gives himself credit for, Smith won his first couple of caps during the Six Nations and is believed by many to be a long-term successor to Owen Farrell and George Ford as England’s front-line fly-half. Farrell, his opponent on Friday evening, was effusive this week about Smith’s ability to put runners through holes.

Smith made his senior debut for England during this year's Six Nations
Smith made his senior debut for England during this year's Six Nations - Getty Images/Dan Mullan

Together, the quartet of playmakers in the Premiership play-offs – Smith, Farrell, Russell and Ford – represents a formidable blend. A fascinating fortnight lies ahead, though Smith simply hopes to “do the same job I’ve been doing for the team the whole year”.

Almost 21 months on from the collapse of Worcester Warriors, where Smith came through the academy, he is “delighted” to be part of a “mouth-watering” occasion.

His exceptional display at a wet and windy Thomond Park in January, which guided Northampton past Munster despite Curtis Langdon’s red card, is picked as a personal highlight of this season. “I’d always thought that I was a fairly decent tackler with a few nice touches attacking wise,” Smith says. “Since coming to Northampton, I’ve worked really hard on game management.”

Enlisting the help of Andrea Furst, the respected sports psychologist, has been another deliberate bid for self-improvement. Three or four games into the season, slightly frustrated with his form, Smith made the call.

“I’d do a few good things and then make a mistake and the mistake would really rattle me,” he adds. “I used to think it was all a bit of a con, that stuff, but it’s made a massive difference. I wish I’d taken notice of the mental side a bit earlier.”

More than once, Smith refers to old habits and viewpoints that have altered with experience. Such a manner, at just 22, convinces you that there is much more to come.

Fin Smith won the RPA Men’s Players’ Player of the Year Award at the 2024 RPA Awards.

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