Eddie Jones has called on Wallabies great George Smith for advice on selecting England’s openside flanker.
The new England coach and former Wallabies mentor spoke to Smith, a player he coached at national and Super Rugby level, to gain intelligence on fellow Wasps flanker and captain James Haskell.
Jones and Smith have had a long association, with the coach signing the flanker for the Brumbies in 1999 before awarding the champion No.7 his first Wallabies cap the next year.
After canvasing Smith’s opinion on openside, Jones hinted Haskell could be the player picked at No.7 for the Six Nations, with World Cup captain Chris Robshaw in pole position to move from openside to blindside flanker.
“We have to pick a bloke who at the moment who can do that primary job of first phase work,” Jones said.
“There are a couple of blokes in the squad who we think can do it, not on a long term basis, but on a short term basis. Haskell might be one of them.”
Meanwhile, Jones insists Manu Tuilagi can perform a similar role to New Zealand centre Ma’a Nonu as one of a cluster of England players who have the potential to become world class.
Jones believes the 24-year-old, who has played most of his rugby at outside centre, is better suited to the number 12 jersey – the position double World Cup winner Nonu filled 103 times for the All Blacks.
“Manu can play both inside and outside centre, but when he’s fit, he can be a Ma’a Nonu-type player,” said Jones, who has included Tuilagi in his squad for the Six Nations.