Smith happy hard work is paying off as fly-half continues to show star quality for Saints

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There was no shortage of irony at the Gardens last Sunday as Fin Smith was named man of the match on the afternoon James Grayson said goodbye to Saints.

After all, Smith’s form is a key reason Grayson has opted to jet off to Japan in search of a new adventure and, ultimately, more game time.

So good has the 21-year-old been that Grayson has not been able to secure opportunities in the No.10 shirt.

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And Smith continues to vindicate his selection, as he produces performances that bely his age.

Fin Smith led the way against Exeter last weekend (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Fin Smith led the way against Exeter last weekend (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Fin Smith led the way against Exeter last weekend (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

"He's very mature, very driven but he's also very popular within the group," said Saints boss Phil Dowson earlier this week.

"He's a big part of the squad so we're really impressed with him.”

Smith has clearly enjoyed working with Grayson since arriving at the Gardens in October last year.

"He's an amazing guy, brilliant rugby player," Smith said.

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"It was great getting to know him over the last year, getting to pick his brains about a lot of his kicking stuff, a lot of his decision-making stuff.

"We chatted about rugby loads together. We had a common interest of wanting to get much better. It was really great having him here to push me, which was great.

"I wish him all the best with his move to Japan.

"He is an unbelievable rugby player and I am sure he will do some brilliant things over there.”

First-choice full-back George Furbank will be the main back-up at fly-half, while Saints have recently drafted in Charlie Savala on loan from Edinburgh.

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But there is no doubt who is the first-choice 10 right now, even if Smith feels he could have enjoyed a better start to the season.

"I feel maybe I didn't quite have the start to the season I would've liked so I was glad to have a little bit more of a say in the outcome of the game last weekend,” he said.

"I thought I showed a lot of the hard work I was putting in pre-season is coming to the forefront, which I am happy with.

"More importantly, it was just a good team result.

"We were happy with a lot of it. I think we were 7 or 8 out of 10 on pretty much all parts of the game.

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"We're confident that if we can be at the sort of level it doesn't take any moments of magic for us to win games when we're playing like that.

"Personally I was fairly happy with how it went and it was good for us to get a few wins on the board at home after a poor result against Bristol earlier in the season."

Next up for Smith and Saints is another huge challenge, at the home of their local rivals as Leicester Tigers lie in wait at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Saturday.

And Smith said: “I can't wait.

"I've never played in a Saints versus Tigers derby. It will be the first experience for me, and from chatting to my team-mates, it's something you can't really experience unless you're there.

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"It's such a big game, there's so much tension, there's so much on the line.

"We're champing at the bit.

"I can't wait personally to get out there but also I think it's going to be a massive one for the team away from home to see how where we go against a Tigers team that probably haven't been where they'd like to be so far this year.”

Smith has played in some big games for Saints already, so what has he learned?

"At the end of the day, it's just another game of rugby," he said.

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“All the commotion and tension around is what it is, the tension around it is what it is and it's there to distract you.

"We've got to get our processes right and hopefully the result will take care of itself.”