ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster has hailed New Zealander Wayne Smith as “a coach of the highest regard” and believes his addition could be a major coup for the national set-up.
Smith, part of the triumphant All Blacks coaching team at the 2011 World Cup, is expected to agree to replace Andy Farrell as England’s backs coach after meeting with Lancaster in South Africa last week.
Though he accepted a role as the Waikato Chiefs’ defence coach at the conclusion of the World Cup, Smith has an exit clause in his contract at the end of the Super 15 season in August, at which point an England coaching role can begin.
Until then, an interim coach, set to be former England international and London Irish attack coach Mike Catt, will be named as Lancaster prepares for a demanding tour of South Africa in June, his first since being appointed England’s permanent head coach.
“I had a good meeting with him [Smith] and clearly he’s a coach of the highest regard,” said Lancaster. “I spoke to him about where we’ve come from as a team and told him our vision for the future. He’s got decisions to make now – he seemed to be excited by the challenge – but he’s also got a lot of ties pulling him back home so we’re waiting to see.
“It’s essentially the same role as Andy Farrell did. It’s a team of three: myself as head coach, Graham Rowntree as the forwards coach and Wayne as backs coach.
“Clearly, with a man of his experience, he’s coaching defence at Waikato at the moment but he’s also coached attack at the All Blacks, so we could use him in all regards.
“The reality is Wayne wouldn’t become available until the end of the summer, so I need to find not just one coach, but three, for what will be a pretty busy schedule,” he added. “We’ve got 41 players going and Mike [Catt] is one guy I’ve spoken to but it’ll probably be after the weekend, not before.”
Smith, former director of rugby for Northampton, meanwhile, has confirmed his confidence in Lancaster’s ability. He said: “He’s very humble and he knows what needs to be done over there because it’s not just about coaching the players as we’ve found out with the All Blacks.
“It’s aligning all your provincial coaches and club coaches because they’re the people coaching your players. Getting them onside and getting the buy-in to the national team being strong and vibrant and challenging the best in the world is pretty important. That will be his major role.”
England tour of South Africa
● Saturday 9 June: First Test, Durban, 4pm
● Wednesday 13 June: v SA Barbarians South, Kimberley, 1.30pm
● Saturday 16 June: Second Test, Johannesburg, 4pm
● Tuesday 19 June: v SA Barbarians North, Potchefstroom, 6.10pm
● Saturday 23 June: Third Test, Port Elizabeth, 4pm
All times BST