Robbie Deans to talk with George Smith
April 20, 2013
The Reds and the Brumbies could not be separated after a titanic battle (video available only in Australia)
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has given his clearest indication yet that he wants George Smith in his squad to face the British & Irish Lions in June and July.
Smith's future has been the subject of conjecture since he signed a short-term deal to play for the Brumbies on loan from Suntory Sungoliath, and his path to the Wallabies jumper was cleared when the Japanese club agreed he could remain in Australia until the end of the Super Rugby season. The veteran flanker, 32, played against the Lions when they last toured Australia in 2001, and he showed with another starring performance in the loose against the Reds that he remains as good as ever.
Deans confirmed his interest in selecting Smith, telling Fox Sports after the Queensland Reds-Brumbies Super Rugby match that "I intend to catch up with him, possibly later tonight".
"We've traded texts and we intend to talk tonight so we'll see what comes of that," Deans said, suggesting that selection now was very much of establishing Smith's desires. "I don't know that the [Australian Rugby Union] has to change anything now that's he's essentially contracted to play in Australia ... he's not a foreign player so to speak. The critical question is whether George wants to do it. He's a class act. There's not too many players could come straight out of the Japanese league into this level and a fixture of this sort of intensity and stand out. He's a remarkable athlete.
"It'd be great to be able to consider George. But it comes down very much to what he wants to do. I don't want to preempt it because it may have to be cleared from further up the food chain. But we'll have a conversation."
Deans also had words of encouragement for Smith's Brumbies captain, Ben Mowen, saying: "Ben is pushing himself forward every time he plays, he's aware of what we're looking for and there's no doubt he's taking those steps. He's clearly got the group connected to him, he's a good leader, runs the lineout, he's a smart rugby player."
Deans described the Reds-Brumbies fixture as "great prep for what's coming, you can't fault what the players brought to the table", and he said he was very happy with the shape and form of his players ahead of the Lions series. "There's no doubt the number of blokes who had a taste of international rugby last year, they've come back to Super Rugby level and they're approaching their work with a lot more ambition," he said. "They're expecting a lot more out of it now. It's very competitive. It's good for us." Deans described the efforts of his players in Super Rugby teams as "superb", saying "clearly these blokes want to play the Lions [and] it'll drive standards".
The coach also confirmed that Quade Cooper remained firmly in his thoughts, despite the Reds playmaker's omission from a 30-man logistics camp in Sydney. "It's a ridiculous suggestion," Deans said when asked whether Cooper was not in mind for the squad. "We know what Quade's capable of. We can see he's very keen to play international rugby again. He's working on some of the detail. You look at some of his restarts, goalkicking, they're good times; he wants in."
Deans, too, was pleased with the continuing good form of Christian Lealiifano and James O'Connor, saying fly-half was now shaping as a position of strength. "Hallelujah," he said of the trio's form. "It's been an area that we've lacked a lot of depth. We've now got a queue. It's very competitive. It's good for us." Deans also noted that Lealiifano provides a ball-playing option at No.12, saying "he's shown he can play that role, and play it very well".
And he said that Israel Folau "continues to make strides".
"He's looking very comfortable," Deans said of Folau, whom he is considering for a position anywhere in the back three. "His sense of timing is remarkable. He makes a difference, he makes an impact. "
Israel Folau was among the stars as the Waratahs beat the Chiefs (video available only in Australia)
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
"Some people have it from day one and Brian did." We talk to the two players who made their Ireland debuts alongside Brian O'Driscoll back in June 1999
Despite having lost all four of their 2014 Six Nations games, the future of Italian rugby is bright with the team showing a new youthful core, argues Enrico Borra
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column