LONDON (Reuters) -The British & Irish Lions have called up England's Marcus Smith for the tour of South Africa as injury cover for Finn Russell, who is nursing an achilles problem, and the young flyhalf admits he "shaking" at the prospect of realising a rugby dream.
The Lions made the announcement as Smith was mid-way through his second test appearance for England against Canada on Saturday, after which he will fly out to meet up with the squad.
The 22-year-old has been rewarded for an excellent season with Harlequins, who he helped to a thrilling Premiership final victory over Exeter Chiefs last month.
Minutes after the end of England’s 70-14 win over Canada, Smith was interviewed pitchside at Twickenham and said: "I can’t believe it -- I got told about 10 minutes ago. Eddie (Jones) told me it’s a special thing. I’m still shaking. It’s amazing. It will be special, a dream come true for sure if I get the opportunity.
"It’s been a brilliant last couple of weeks and couldn’t have done it without my family and my team mates.
"I don’t think it will sink in until I get back from the Lions, I’ll have to pinch myself on the plane."
The rest of the England squad lined up behind Smith to give him a round of applause, singing "Lions".
The flyhalf had been due to attend Wembley on Sunday for England’s Euro 2020 final against Italy, but said: "I think I’ll get on the plane instead," before predicting a 2-0 win for Gareth Southgate’s team.
Smith, who was born in the Philippines, made his international debut against the United States last weekend and will be the fourth flyhalf with the Lions, along with Russell, whose injury is not thought to be tour ending, England's Owen Farrell and Welshman Dan Biggar.
England coach Jones believes there is much to admire in the youngster, even if he is still a raw talent.
"He’s got a good feel for the game, he sees space. There are bits and pieces to work on his game, he’s got a way to go, but Dan Carter was at his best at 33."
The Lions tour has been disrupted by COVID-19 cases among their opponents with the team to play the Sharks later on Saturday in a repeat of their midweek 54-7 win.
After that they will move down to Cape Town, where it is now likely all three tests will be played.
(Reporting by Nick Said and Mitch Phillips, Editing by Angus MacSwan and Toby Davis)