Irish snub RFU’s bid for Smith

London Irish today confirmed they have rejected an approach from the Rugby Football Union for director of rugby Brian Smith.

Smith, 41, is reportedly wanted by England team manager Martin Johnson to become the national team’s new backs coach.

It is unknown whether the former Ireland and Australia international is interested in the post, but Irish insist they will not release him from his contract, which has another year to run.

The Guinness Premiership club’s chairman, Andrew Coppel, said: “We are aware of Brian Smith’s ambitions to further his career at international level at some point in the future. However, he is contracted to London Irish for another year and our intention is that the contract will be honoured.

“Two weeks ago, the club received an official approach about Brian Smith from the Rugby Football Union, verbally through its Director of Elite Rugby (Rob Andrew).

“The club’s board considered the request and rejected it.”

Coppel added: “Under various codes of conduct governing both the RFU and clubs, any approach to a player or coach who has more than six months remaining on his contract is expressly forbidden unless the club concerned gives its consent.

“London Irish has given no such consent to the RFU with regard to Brian Smith.”

Johnson named three uncapped London Irish players in his squad for next month’s tour of New Zealand, his first selection since his appointment last month.

Lock Nick Kennedy, hooker David Paice and wing Topsy Ojo will join scrum-half Peter Richards in the touring party.

As well as Smith, veteran London Irish centre Mike Catt and former Leicester back Austin Healey - both ex-England internationals - have been linked with the backs coach vacancy.

England have been without a specialist in the role since Brian Ashton was promoted to head coach in December 2006.

Ashton continued to coach the backs as part of his duties but his departure under the Johnson regime left a gap which needed filling.

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