MARCUS SMITH has a been earmarked for next year’s Rugby World Cup by England head coach Eddie Jones.

But the talented fly-half from Brighton is nowhere near a Test start yet warns the Red Rose boss.

Smith is one of two ‘apprentice players’ in Jones’ squad for the two-day training camp in Brighton.

Jones says this period is crucial to shaping his squad for next year’s global showpiece in Japan and the Harlequins rising star is in his long-term thinking although established stars George Ford and Owen Farrell are way above him in the pecking order.

“We want to develop him as a player,” said Jones.

“I see him as an important investment for English rugby.

“We would ideally like to get him right for the World Cup because then he fills a fine role as a third stand-off for us.

“But the only way we are going to develop him is for him to play at Harlequins and bring him into camps and put extra work into him.”

Smith was back at Brighton College where he finished his studies last summer with the rest of the training group.

And Jones made it clear Smith is not in the short-term picture for a cap when options were discussed should first choice players get injured.

Jones said: “Marcus I don’t think is ready to play Test rugby. I think he is miles away.

“He has got some fundamental flaws in his game that he understands he has to work on.

“He’s a young kid who is learning his trade.”

Meanwhile, Jones’ confidence in Dylan Hartley remains intact despite the England captain’s slump in form at Northampton.

Former Crowborough and Sussex colt Hartley has not been on the winning side at his club since September and Saints have slipped to ninth in the Aviva Premiership standings.

Jones said: “It’s been a tough time for him. When you are captain of a club that is struggling, a club that has just sacked their coach, it becomes a difficult time.

“That has been reflective of his play, but very good players do compartmentalise things and he’s done that terrifically well, come in and led with effervescence, trained well - he’s been good.”

He added: “Dylan’s attitude is right, his body is right and he brings something to the table that we need at the moment, which is strong leadership.”