Smith cleared for Wallaby stint
Thu, 18 Apr 2013 07:10
Including a guy like George in your match-day 22 is an instant boost
Veteran flank George Smith has taken a giant leap closer to a Wallaby recall, after an agreement with his Japanese club.
The Brumbies confirmed on Thursday that Suntory Sungoliath has cleared Smith to remain with the Canberra-based franchise for the rest of their 2013 campaign - opening the way for a possible return to the Wallabies against the British and Irish Lions.
However, the Australian Rugby Union would need to set a precedent by allowing an overseas-contracted player to appear for the Wallabies if national coach Robbie Deans wants to select him.
Originally contracted until the end of next month, Smith has been cleared to stay until the Brumbies' final game - including a possible finals campaign in July or August.
The decision means that Smith will be in Australia when the three-Test series against the Lions is played in June and July.
Smith, 32, said it was his chance to have a final crack at a Super Rugby title having won the trophy with the Brumbies in 2001 and 2004.
"This has been a special opportunity for me and my family, to return to the Brumbies for what will probably be the last time," Smith said.
"I've already been lucky enough to build a legacy I am proud of with the club, so to be given another chance to add to that is exciting.
"When I arrived I was impressed with the quality of the group in terms of rugby and also personalities.
"There is enough potential and drive there to achieve something with this team and I'm excited by the chance of being a part of it."
The loan extension also gives Smith a chance to add to his 110 caps for the Wallabies in the three-Test home series against the Lions if selected by Deans.
Brumbies head coach Jake White said he was delighted to have the experienced Smith with the Australian conference leaders as a replacement for long-term injured Wallaby captain David Pocock.
"I've been in close contact with Suntory and I must say they have been a fantastic club to deal with. It's been a pleasure from the start and I thank them for loaning George to us for the season," White said.
"Without being a distraction, this issue is obviously something that both the club and George have been considering for a number of months so it's nice we can have it settled and get back to work."
Smith lines up against outstanding young flank Liam Gill for the first time against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Saturday to give Deans a look at his selection options for the Wallabies.
"As I've said all year, including a guy like George in your match-day 22 is an instant boost and I am excited to hear he'll be with us for the rest of our campaign," White said.
Smith has featured in 134 games for the Brumbies after making his debut in 2000 against the Sharks.
Since then he has gone on to claim the Brett Robinson Players Player for the club on eight different occasions, making his the most decorated player the Brumbies have ever kept on their books.
His 110 Tests for the Wallabies highlight a career that has also seen him star for international sides like Toulon, Stade Francais and most recently Suntory.
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