Nick Evans knows all about being targeted as Harlequins’ playmaker and is confident rising star Marcus Smith can handle the big hits when he comes up against Wasps at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday.
The 18-year-old is still learning his trade, but with Demetri Catrikilis ruled out after breaking a bone in his neck in the win over Gloucester, the former Brighton College player has the key role for a battle between two of the most attack-minded teams in the Premiership.
All Black Evans, Quins’ record points scorer, retired at the end of last season and is now coaching the backs — and having to deal with injuries to the club’s No10s. Tim Swiel damaged a shoulder before the campaign started but is now back in the selection mix, while Smith had to follow head injury protocols after taking a heavy hit in the opening-day defeat to London Irish.
Smith will start against Wasps and could face Danny Cipriani, a player who burst on to the scene and quickly earned England recognition only for a serious ankle injury and various off-the-pitch problems to cloud his career. Cipriani is still desperate to break back into Eddie Jones’s squad, but it is Smith who is catching the eye of the head coach.