George Smith back for one night only
July 4, 2013
George Smith posed for the cameras on Thursday © Getty Images
George Smith is "pretty sure" the Tom Richards Cup series decider between Australia and the British & Irish Lions at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday will be the final Test appearance of his glittering career.
Smith, 32, is grateful for the chance to play in Saturday's sold-out blockbuster after overcoming a knee injury suffered six weeks ago, declaring the winner-takes-all match a fitting end to his career in front of his friends and family. "In terms of rugby it's the ultimate for me, to be selected within the starting XV for this decider, there's nothing higher for me at the moment," Smith said. "I'm very pleased that Robbie has gone my way in terms of selections. Obviously Michael Hooper and Liam Gill played extremely well in the past two games, but to get this opportunity is huge for me."
Smith said "I'm pretty sure it will be - no, it will be," when asked if Saturday's blockbuster would be his last Test. "I've had a fantastic international career and knowing when to bow out and the legacy that I've left behind on the international stage I'm very proud of."
The legendary openside flanker played the last of his 110-Test matches when he started against Wales at the end of 2009. He joined the Brumbies on a short-term loan contract from Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath in March, and was expected to start for the Wallabies in the opening Test after David Pocock suffered a season-ending knee injury. His own knee injury threatened to derail his dream of a second series against the Lions, but he will get his final farewell on Saturday night.
"This just caps it off," he said. "I retired in 2009 in Wales away from home with not too many friends and family there watching, this gives me the opportunity to play in front of them and also play in front of the Australian crowd and on home soil. That will be fitting for my career to look back on and say I've finished on a great occasion, a big moment. I'm looking forward to that."
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, who declared Smith a better player than when he played his last Test, said of the veteran's selection ahead of Michael Hooper: "It was pretty straightforward really. It's not a big decision to select George. He's a bloke who's served Australian rugby enormously in the past. It's pretty evident he would have been part of this campaign if he hadn't had the misfortune of his injury. His recovery was remarkable and he's a great bloke to have around. He's very experienced; he will bring a lot of composure to the group. It's good to have someone like George alongside you in the game. There's not too many moments he hasn't experienced."
Smith, who revealed he was close to returning to the Wallabies fold for Rugby World Cup 2011 after Deans approached him to play, expects a brutal breakdown battle against the Lions this weekend.
"I think they've played some really good rugby," Smith said. "They've got some big running centres that we're going to play this weekend. They're very good at the breakdown, as we saw last week. Obviously [Sam] Warburton's not there this weekend, but Sean O'Brien's a very good player. So I'm looking forward to a really good contest, a real robust game; hopefully not too many penalties and a lot of running rugby."
Robbie Deans hails George Smith
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
Huw Richards rewinds to 1864 to mark the birth of Welsh rugby's first authentic star - Arthur Gould
Michael Cheika has succeeded in becoming the Wallabies coach under his own terms, writes Greg Growden
In the blink of an eye, a winger can go from a hero to villain. Hugh Godwin talks to Zac Guildford and David Strettle about life on the flank
Munster, No.8s, the imploding Australians, wonderful Glasgow and Lancaster's dilemma - it is Monday Maul time