George Smith free to play for Wallabies
April 17, 2013
George Smith has made a major impact for the Brumbies in 2013 © Getty Images
George Smith is now free to play for Australia against the British & Irish Lions after his Japanese club, Suntory Sungoliath, cleared him to play for the Brumbies until the end of the Super Rugby season in early August.
Smith was playing for the Brumbies only on a short-term loan deal, until May 31, which meant he remained contracted to Suntory and hence was unavailable to play for the Wallabies despite being the form No. 7 in Super Rugby.
Suntory's decision to allow Smith to remain with the Brumbies, reported on News Ltd's Rugby Gold on Wednesday night, means the player now is clear to play for the Wallabies, if the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) wishes to approach him. The ARU previously has expressed fears about the potential to encourage a player exodus to Japan if it selects to face the Lions.
Pundits, including ESPNscrum columnist Greg Growden, have suggested that ARU officials should make Smith's availability for the Lions series their "No.1 priority", but Wallabies scrum-half Will Genia fears the flanker's prospective selection may set an unfair precedent.
Smith has been the form openside flanker in Super Rugby since he returned to Australia to play for the Brumbies, and Genia told Rugby Gold that he would "love to have George involved in the Wallabies squad somewhere".
But Genia said that flankers Liam Gill and Michael Hooper also had a compelling case for selection. "You've got Gilly doing really well this season and Hooper, who was outstanding last year," Genia told Rugby Gold. "Haven't you got to reward the very good young guys coming through?
"Just bringing someone in for one series sets a tough precedent. I'm lucky not to be any part of the decision because it is a tough one."
Russell Barwick and Greg Growden discuss the big issues in Australian rugby
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter