Former captain Will Carling back in England fold in mentor role

Eddie Jones.
Eddie Jones.
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Will Carling is to join England’s management team this autumn as a mentor to senior players as head coach Eddie Jones seeks to build a bridge to the nation’s “great past”.

Carling will start the part-time role next week and has been given the brief of developing the skills of the leadership group spearheaded by co-captains Dylan Hartley and Owen Farrell.

England's Will Carling Looks unhappy in the last few minutes of the Five Nations Match against France. France won 20-23. Photo by Adam Butler/PA

England's Will Carling Looks unhappy in the last few minutes of the Five Nations Match against France. France won 20-23. Photo by Adam Butler/PA

It is a surprise move by Jones, who believes the experience accumulated during 59 appearances as England captain in a reign that produced three Grand Slams and a World Cup runners-up medal will be of benefit.

Jones has frequently identified inadequate “leadership density” as one of the shortcomings of his squad. If the appointment proves a success, Carling’s involvement could extend until Japan 2019.

“I have met Will continuously over the last two years and I think he can add value to the senior players in the squad with his experience,” said Jones. “He joins the great past of England to the present. It is a similar thing to what the All Blacks have done with great players and I think Will can play that role for us.

“Will is bit of a specialist in leadership. He understands what made English rugby great so combining the skill of leadership with the knowledge of English history is a nice resource for us to have.

Will is bit of a specialist in leadership. He understands what made English rugby great so combining the skill of leadership with the knowledge of English history is a nice resource for us to have.

Eddie Jones

“I’ve thought about doing this all along, particularly because I’m not English. I can’t preach to the players about having pride in England. I don’t attempt to. I have always said that. I’ve thought that we have had possibly a gap in that area.”

One of Carling’s successors in England’s midfield, meanwhile, is edging closer to making his first Test start since 2014 after a succession of major injuries.

Manu Tuilagi is poised to start Saturday’s opening Quilter International at outside centre and his return is eagerly awaited.

Leicester team-mate Ben Youngs is among many to welcome back the Samoan-born wrecking ball.

“People are getting excited about Manu being back in the squad and they are right to be excited. He is a game-changer,” said Youngs.

“We’ve got to be smart in how we use him. We’re all talking about Manu so South Africa are probably about Manu too. So we have to be careful with how we use him. Those first engagements are always pretty ferocious, but hopefully he is going to be involved.”