England coach Eddie Jones has called on the services of former Wallabies flanker George Smith to work with his forwards on an informal basis ahead of his first match in charge against Scotland in next month’s Six Nations opener.
Smith, who made 111 appearances for Australia, is widely regarded as one of the greatest openside flankers of the modern game and is currently playing for English side Wasps.
Jones said he was keen to call on Smith’s help in a bid to try and improve England’s work around the breakdown, an area that was a weakness during a disastrous Rugby World Cup campaign.
“We sat down and had a coffee last week,” Jones told Sky Sports News on Wednesday.
“He’s going to pop down next week and do a bit of breakdown work with the back rows.
“It’s a very informal relationship, more about the friendship I have with George, but he’s obviously a world class player and our players can only benefit from his tuition.”
Jones will be without prolific winger Chris Ashton who has been banned for 10 weeks after being found guilty of eye gouging.
The 28-year-old denied the offence, which related to an incident with Ulster centre Luke Marshall during the team’s European Champions Cup game last weekend, and is set to appeal.
The European Professional Club Rugby hearing’s judicial officer found that Ashton, who has been warned about discipline in the past, had committed an act of foul play that warranted a red card and was given a 12-week suspension.
“He added one week as a deterrent according to World Rugby’s memorandum regarding offences of this nature, before reducing the sanction by three weeks due to Ashton’s good character and good conduct at the hearing,” an EPCR statement said.
Ashton, who has scored 19 tries in 39 internationals, has played only two Tests since 2013 but has continued to score tries for Saracens and Jones backed him to get back in the squad for the tour to Australia later in the year.
“Players have these setbacks and I’m sure he’s a good enough player to get over it,” he said.
“He’s been in good form and I know he was so keen to get back into the international fold.
“It’s disappointing but it opens an opportunity for another player.”