George Smith to haunt the Lions once more?

george smith
12 years ago, aged just 21, George Smith took to the field to take on the British and Irish Lions, proving to be the pivotal factor as the Australians won the series and Smith took home the accolade of Man of the Series. This was the beginning of the George Smith international story; a story that saw him win 110 caps – more caps than any other Australian forward in history – and then surprisingly retire at the age of 29.

Now, this international exile could be over. Smith has been possibly persuaded to pull on the famous yellow jersey again and take to the field to combat the newest crop of British and Irish Lions to hit the Aussie shores. Whether he would have been approached had David Pocock not been sidelined is another question, but what is certain is the fact that Smith’s potential inclusion is a headache that Lions coach Warren Gatland could do without.

Looking at Smith’s achievements over his glittering career proves just why the Lions should be afraid. Not only was he named in the Wallaby Team of the Decade, he was also given the John Eales Medal for being the player of the year in 2002 (winning again in 2008). He has scored 45 points for his country, captained the Wallabies during the 2007 World Cup where his team lost out in the quarter-finals to a Jonny Wilkinson and Andrew Sheridan inspired England (both of whom failed to make the Lions squad, despite sparkling performances for Toulon).

Smith’s domestic career is just as impressive, spending the majority of his career with the Brumbies. His influence there was undeniable, earning nine Players’ Player of the Year awards, with eight of these coming in consecutive seasons. He was a key part of the squad that won the Brumbies only two championships and was named Australian Super Rugby Player of the year four times. After all these achievements Smith retired from international football and left for Japan in 2010 where is has played for Suntory Sungoliath, winning two All-Japan Championships. After two years overseas he has returned to Brumbies for Super Rugby this season, seemingly recapturing the form which made him arguably the best no.7 in world rugby.

Fans of the Wallabies shouldn’t get too excited yet though, as there are a few hurdles in Smith’s way before he runs out onto the pitch to represent his country again. These hurdles are formidable ones too, and come in the forms of young flankers Michael Hooper and Liam Gill. The question is this: can Robbie Deans trust one of these young talents with such an important role against the Lions? The general consensus in the rugby world is that the answer to this is “no” – after all, why spurn the experience and skill of Smith for a series of matches that don’t come around very often at all? Of the two, Michael Hooper would be the most likely to spoil Smith’s party, simply due to the fact that he has slightly more experience than Gill (Hooper has played for the Wallabies thirteen times, Gill nine), although both have shown promise in the domestic league. The most likely combination will be Smith in the starting line-up and Hooper on the bench, with Gill left to rue his bad luck that Smith has decided to make his much vaunted return.

Perhaps the final word should be left to the man responsible for deciding whether Smith will play though: Australia coach Robbie Deans. His statement to the press was: “It’d be great to be able to consider George. But it comes down very much to what he wants to do.” It seems therefore that there is only one man who can determine the international destiny of George Smith, and that is George Smith himself.

By Ilan Hurwitz
Ilan runs the Australian web site Football Jerseys Online where you can purchase Jerseys from the most popular teams including the British & Irish Lions & the Wallabies.

18 thoughts on “George Smith to haunt the Lions once more?

  1. I’m torn between really wanting to see him play, and not wanting him to be on the pitch against the Lions. But lets be honest, he will be there. Could it not work though with Smith at 6, then Hooper at 7?

    1. i think smith could do a pretty handy job at 8 for the wallabies.

      it all depends on the fitness and form of other players.

      I think higgenbotham is better at 6 than 8. and palu seems to struggle to match form and fitness these days.

      I would look at Higgenbotham, Smith and Hooper as a backrow. Gill would have to be the bench option, as he has been superb this season.

      Mowen and Schatz could push for the 8 shirt too though, which would make things interesting.

      1. Agree with on that back row. But I like Higgingbottom at 8, he offers a real carrying presence. So I’d have him there, and Smith at 6. It makes for a very impressive back row.

        1. the beauty of them is that they are well balanced and pretty versatile, so having smith or higgenbotham at 8 doesnt make a huge difference, as long as the other is at 6.

          totally agree with you though, very impressive backrow. imagine their resources had pocock not been injured… (then again i wonder if smith would be in the frame)

          smith’s versatility probably means that the aussies are slightly better off with pocock being injured, as crazy as that sounds…

  2. No question in my mind, I would love to see him play. There is no point in winning if your opposition is not at its best and without Pocock Australia are already a weaker side. All true fans of the game want to see the best players on the field and George Smith fits that billing.

  3. Smith is why I think it’s a mistake to make Warbuton captain (over PoC or AWJ).

    Smith Vs Warburton at 6 or 7 is a great match up but for me there’s too great a risk that the rest of the team are going to watch the captain coming off second best (like England had to in Cardiff).

    1. That’s a really good point actually, and one that I hadn’t thought of. It could be a real psychological blow for the Lions to see their captain get battered by his opposite number.

      On the flip side, if Warburton can get on top, it will be a huge lift!

      1. Agree, not suggesting it’s a slam dunk certainty that Smith dominates Warburton, but I do think Warburton is the second favourite in that context. So would have preferred to see us captained from a position of real strength.

  4. Question for you then Matt, on the criteria that a captain is someone who will dominate in his position, who would you have gone for?

    Adam Jones is the only person I can think of that fits that bill and is a test certainty (or nearest thing to it)…

    BOD perhaps? But is his test place nailed on and will his body make it to the first test?

    AWJ? POC?

    1. I would say POC. Horwill and Simmons are good locks but neither are of his stature and experience.

      1. agree with you here Jacob. i think that POC is dominant.

        Horwill is a great player, but POC is probably one of the premier locks in the world, and he has been for a while.

        Also the other lock position is pretty undecided for the wallabies, IMO. They have guys like Timani, Douglas and Simmons who have all had a go, but none have set the world alight. then there are guys like Pyle who are playing well, but are yet to get the chance. Horwill is the only standout lock in Aus (since Sharpe retired).

        I expect to see Horwill and Timani as the locks. They are the most physical locks the wallabies have, and both are pretty mobile and abrasive. they fit the bill to play “aussie rugby” but also to defend against “gatland rugby”

        1. Possibly. I mentioned Simmons just because they play together at the Reds it may edge him up the pecking order based on partnership with Horwill, they seem to compliment each other well. But agree that it could be Timani. Would like to see Pyle get a chance at one point, very impressive lock.

    2. I would have picked a second row captain, I struggled to decide between POC and AWJ. I think they are both exceptional leaders, I think POC is the most inspirational leadership figure, but AWJ potentially more physically able to go for every minute of every test. Both have a commanding presence but as I can only pick one I have to go POC.

      Although Horwill is in great form, Timani is a huge unit and Simmons is decent player, I think the presence, physicality, line out expertise and experience of our likely test starters is a real area of strength. Appreciate they were injury depleted last year, but given they had to keep exhuming Sharpe I think we have a good chance of dominating them in this area over the course of the 3 tests.

      I wouldn’t have gone for BOD on grounds of durability, nor Heaslip as I don’t think he’s a test starter.

      I hadn’t considered Adam Jones, just because I’m not aware of his leadership credentials (doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any!).

      The 3 reasons I wouldn’t have gone for Warburton are:
      – First time tourist (a team talk of what it means to be a Lion and win a series before the deciding 3rd test has much more credibility coming from POC)
      – Back row is ultra competitive and Warburton has only been a form pick in the last 2 internationals and not been involved in a top class game since.
      – He’s got his work cut out dealing with an area of undoubted strength for Australia, and if the head to head is Warburton Vs Smith I would pick Smith to come out on top.

      I’m not a big fan of the message it sends out to the non Welsh players either and a perception some may be starting with more credit in the bank than others. Slight digression, but on that subject I think Gatland’s comments about people playing in European and domestic finals over the next couple of weeks being at a disadvantage are poorly judged as well. There is a counter view that those who haven’t played a European QF or beyond or a domestic play off/final are going to need more prep time to get up to speed with top class rugby again.

      1. Completely agree with all your points there. Warburton was not a great pick in my opinion. I’d have gone POC or AWJ similar to what you have said. Interesting point about Adam Jones, has he ever captained a side before?

      2. from what i understand, all those players not involved in european finals will attend training camps, to make sure that they are still in tip top shape.

        what this means is that none of the Leinster, ulster, leicester or northampton players will be in attendance.

        so 6 of the 8 irishmen wont be in attendance and 7 of the 10 englishmen. and from what i understand, most of these guys will probably not play the Baa Baas game, so they have time to recover.

        we are left with 15 welshmen, 3 english, 3 scots, and 2 irish.

        on a seperate note, i agree with your points regarding warburton. one thing i would say in his defence though; having seen photos of their recent photo shoots, many players seemed to be hanging around in groups of their nationalities (some exceptions – ie Vunipola and Faletau, who are cousins) but Warburton was seen walking and talking with other players. It was nice to see that he has decided to dive right in, it will set a good example about mixing to the other players.

  5. It would be great having Georgie boy back on as a wallaby against the Lions . Palu last man down (8) , Higginbotham blindside flank ,Smith openside .

  6. Personally I think that Hooper is a heck of a player. Didn’t look fazed when he stepped into the test arena and would walk into most test teams, so Pocock or not, Smith or not, they’ve still got a class 7. Agree with the points above. I want the Lions to play the best that the Aussies have. Win or lose am hoping for some great rugby.

    1. Pocock, Smith, Hooper. All pretty outsanding players. And then to have Gill as backup to them all – possibly one of (if not the) best 7’s in the S15 this year.

      i would expect smith to be considered as a 6 or 8 option, to allow for the other two to be in the squad too.

      it would also not surprise me if one of hooper, pocock or gill moved to either 6 or 8 in the future, to accomodate each other in the wallaby backrow.

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