RUGBY UNION: Smith out to shine after earning a coaching role

7:30am Saturday 21st December 2013

By Ed Mezzetti

Ollie Smith hopes to make a big impact after coming through his ‘trial’ with London Welsh.

The former England and British & Irish Lions centre was announced as Welsh’s new assistant coach this week, although he has been involved with the squad for a couple of months.

Smith, 31, is pleased to be back in the game after quitting as Esher’s head coach last summer, but he had to work hard for his chance.

“I got in contact with Justin Burnell to see if I could spend a few days with London Welsh,” said Smith, who is in charge of the Exiles’ defence.

“I did the same with my old clubs Leicester and Harlequins.

“Justin Burnell wanted to have a look at me. It started off with a couple of sessions and went from there “One thing led to another and I got the job.”

Smith, whose contract runs until the end of the season, added: “It has gone well and hopefully I have done a good job with the players.

“I feel very fortunate to be part of a club like London Welsh.”

Smith forms a backroom team with Gordon Ross, whose focus in on attack and head coach Burnell, who also looks after the forwards.

While Smith and Ross voice their opinions, Burnell has the final say with selection.

Coaching better players at Welsh presents Smith with an increased challenge.

“At times I feel a bit out of my depth, but I am glad to be in an environment where I am pushing myself week in, week out,” he said.

“My long-term goal is to be coaching at the top level.

“For now my focus is on helping Welsh get back into the Premiership.”

Leaders Welsh have the meanest defence in the Greene King IPA Championship, having shipped just 142 points in ten matches.

And Smith, who won the Premiership and Heineken Cup with Leicester, believes that is the recipe for success.

“I have been very lucky to be involved with some very successful teams and they have always had strong defences,” he said.

“The two go hand in hand.

“My role is making sure the guys don’t concede tries.

“If you don’t concede, you won’t lose. It’s an old football cliche, but it is true.”

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