Saints welcomed an unusual visitor to Staplewood ahead of their Europa League opener against Sparta Prague with England rugby head coach Eddie Jones popping in.

Jones was a guest of the club’s famed sports medicine department, but also took the chance to watch training and meet Claude Puel.

The Saints manager confessed to being a big rugby fan, and revelled in discussing the similarities between the sport with the man who led England to their first Grandslam in 13 years.

“It’s a good meeting with a good man and also a good trainer,” said Puel.

“It was interesting to meet him and to discuss together the tactical for the playing of rugby and the similarity to football and many similar with the football, with the tactical.

“It was interesting to discuss together.

“I like the rugby.

“My father was a rugby player also and when I was training every week it was not the football I go to see but a rugby game.

“I like the rugby. I come from Castres, a city of rugby in the French nation.”

Puel believes there is a lot that coaches from different sports can learn from each other, though inevitably the meeting cast minds back to Sir Clive Woodward’s stint at the club.

“I think it’s a good thing and it’s important for a trainer to stay every time open with all the trainers,” insisted Puel, who is friends with former French rugby head coach Bernard Laporte.

“Better also with a different sport and I think in rugby it will be of course a player is different but there are similarities with the tactical and it is interesting to discuss and take every time ideas from another sport.”

Puel says he will attend an England rugby match as a guest of Jones soon, but in the meantime there is the small matter of preparing for Sparta Prague, who visit St Mary’s this evening.

“It’s another competition. It’s different because Europa League is a mini championship and it’s important to build, to qualify for the next round,” reflected Puel.

“The Premier League the start of the season is difficult for the results but it’s ok because every game I think we can do many good things.

“It’s important now to find an efficient, to score and to win games with the same qualities.

“This is very important and this competition is interesting. I trust the team to play this game and not just with the spirit of the Premier League as this is a good challenge against Prague in the Europa League.”