England
George Smith approach highlights Eddie Jones' England overhaul
Sam Bruce
January 19, 2016
© David Rogers/Getty Images

It just doesn't seem right, even in this era of global professionalism.

Wallabies great George Smith, with 111 Tests next to his name, the finest No.7 Australia has ever produced, standing sideline in an England tracksuit.

It's the stuff of nightmares - a sporting "betrayal" akin to Shane Warne rolling the arm over in the England nets.

It's simply not worth thinking about, at least until the man himself confirms he will take up Eddie Jones' offer to school England's No.7 candidates in breakdown artistry.

'Squad a mix of experience and potential' - Jones
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News overnight that Smith's club, Wasps, wouldn't stand in the way of the Australian assisting Jones ahead of the Six Nations was likely the first rugby fans Down Under had heard of the prospect.

There are few players more revered in Australian rugby circles than Smith, and even fewer worldwide held in higher regard in No.7 play. (See the recently retired, and engaged, Richie McCaw.)

And that, if it does indeed transpire, is what makes this potential role so critical for England as they have lacked a quality No.7 since Neil Back departed the Test arena at the end of 2003.

This was no more evident than in the recent Rugby World Cup where Stuart Lancaster's side became the first host nation to exit before the knock-out stage, a departure that cost the coach his job.

Meanwhile, the Wallabies had Michael Hooper and David Pocock, Wales had Sam Warburton, and Ireland had Sean O'Brien; even Scotland realised the need for a proper No.7 in importing the likes of John Hardie and Blair Cowan from New Zealand.

The Springboks approach their back-row composition a little differently - and perhaps that played a part in coach Heyneke Meyer's departure - while the All Blacks of course rode McCaw's awesome first-half effort in the final to William Webb Ellis glory. The All Blacks had a reasonably handy replacement in Sam Cane, too.

'Jones must decide when players are ready'
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As predicted by ESPN colleague Greg Growden recently, Jones has already started to shake up the England establishment and approaching Smith to come on-board, in even the smallest capacity, is evidence of just how serious 'Fast Eddie' is.

The former Wallabies coach has said he regards incumbent captain and No.7 Chris Robshaw as a No.6, and thus needs to find an openside who fits the modern-day mould.

Aside from McCaw, there is arguably no one better than Smith to help Jones develop that player.

For Smith is one of the few players to enter into battle with McCaw and exit with his reputation intact and, even at 35 years of age, he was mentioned in discussions when the Australian Rugby Union altered its contracting protocols in a move that opened up Test returns for Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell.

That was one of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika's most astute moves, as were the backroom appointments of Stephen Larkham, Nathan Grey and, probably most crucially of all, scrum guru Mario Ledesma.

Cheika surrounded himself with quality assistants, just as All Blacks coach Steve Hansen did in convincing Wayne Smith to return to the Test fold.

Smith's appointment, in whatever capacity, would fall into a similar category - one Australian fans could potentially tolerate if it begins and ends with the Six Nations.

As for the June Test series Down Under? Well that's another story entirely.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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