Smith backing away from the enemy

International
AFP
by AFP

Wallabies great George Smith has promised his compatriots his time assisting 'old enemy' England is coming to an end.

The former Wallaby openside, set to appear for Wasps in their European Champions Cup semi-final against English rivals Saracens on Saturday, acted as a coaching consultant to compatriot Eddie Jones, his former Australia boss, during England's victorious Six Nations grand slam campaign this season.

But the 35-year-old flanker, still an active player, has also been passing on his knowledge at club level where his club team-mates include England back-row James Haskell and rising star Nathan Hughes.

Smith, who is set to rejoin Japan's Suntory Sungoliath on a two-year contract next season, will be in Australia when compatriot Jones takes England 'Down Under' for a three-Test series with the Wallabies in June.

But he insisted he would not be a member of fellow Australian Jones's England backroom staff for the tour.

"Yes I will be in Australia, visiting family as I've been away for a couple of years, but no I won't be assisting the English team," said Smith.

"I think they'd take my passport off me if I did!," added the loose forward, capped 111 times by his country and a member of the Australia side beaten by England in the 2003 World Cup final in Sydney.

"It was fantastic to work with the England squad during the Six Nations.

"I think it was a big leap of faith from Eddie to allow me to do that, and I really enjoyed the experience.

"The English players are fantastic to work with. They had a drive to learn new things and pick my brain in why I do things out there on the field, and it was a privilege to be involved in the inner sanctum of an international set-up."

Fiji-born Hughes will qualify for England on residency grounds in June, too late for the Australia tour.

Saturday's semi-final at Reading's Madejski Stadium will see Hughes up against current England No 8 Billy Vunipola and Smith expects his club colleague to be pushing hard for international honours.

"Nathan's an exceptional player and people have seen him display his abilities over the past couple of seasons," said Smith.

"Everyone sees that Nathan is Test calibre, he dominates when he carries the ball.

"There's no doubt he has the ability to play at that level. Give him the opportunity and he'll take it."

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