x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

British & Irish Lions: George Smith to seize the moment

George Smith is looking forward to putting his wealth of rugby 'awareness' to use against the British & Irish Lions. On the other touchline, Alun Wyn Jones, who will captain the Lions, has no ill will to Wallabies captain James Horwill.

Alun Wyn Jones, who will serve as Lions captain in the final Test against Australia in Sydney, has no hard feelings to Wallabies captain James Horwill.
Alun Wyn Jones, who will serve as Lions captain in the final Test against Australia in Sydney, has no hard feelings to Wallabies captain James Horwill.

George Smith welcomed the opportunity for a home farewell he never had following his recall to the Australia team for tomorrow's showdown against the British & Irish Lions, four years after last playing for his country.

Coach Robbie Deans went for the flanker's big-match experience as his only change to the Wallabies' team for the series decider in Sydney.

Smith, 32, last played for the Wallabies against Wales at Cardiff in 2009. He was given his chance after a quick recovery from a hamstring injury which had - until injuries forced his recall - kept him out of the final squad. Now the survivor of the last Lions' series here 12 years ago gets a chance to play before his family and home fans.

With 110 appearances, the flanker is Australia's third-most capped player, and "this just caps it off," he said. "I retired in 2009 in Wales and played away from home with not too many friends and family there watching.

"This gives me the opportunity to play in front of them and to play in front of an Australian crowd on my home soil."

Smith ousted Michael Hooper from the open-side flanker spot and said he had no doubts he would be up to the battle, despite spending the last six weeks recovering from a hamstring injury.

"I was hoping to get the nod," he said. "Robbie gave me an indication that I'd be considered if I did the work on learning the game plan. You're not going to be guaranteed spots within this team, you have to work hard at it."

Smith, who was given his chance after he was released by his Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath to play a Super Rugby season with his old ACT Brumbies team, said he was a much more aware player now than when he last played against the Lions 12 years ago.

"I've changed enormously. I played on instinct in 2001, I'd only had three or four Test matches under my belt. So I was very green in terms of my game play, in terms of being in the right spot at the right time," he said.

"My rugby awareness is a lot better nowadays, my understanding of rugby players and why we do what we do, why you run these lines, why you tackle a certain way.

"There's a lot of things you pick up by playing. I've played a lot of rugby and if you pick up one thing each time you play, there's a wealth of knowledge there."

Smith said playing against the 2001 Lions was a blur and he had played on instinct.

"I didn't know the magnitude of the British Lions or the series and I was led extremely well by senior players," he said.

"For me to compare the two series is unfair. I've only been part of this series for two weeks, but have had knowledge of how we do things and for the past six weeks these guys have worked extremely hard. It's a massive game for us."



Alun Wyn Jones, British & Irish Lions captain for the decisive third Test against Australia, says he harbours no ill feelings towards his opposite number James Horwill despite the three stitches he received near his eye after the series opener.

Horwill, who caught his fellow lock's face with his boot in the Brisbane Test, was cited over the incident but cleared to play in the second Test only to be tried again after an appeal by the International Rugby Board (IRB).

The IRB appeal failed on Tuesday, and Horwill and Wyn Jones will now line up opposite each other in the second row at Sydney's Olympic Stadium as captain of their teams.

"It's become a bit of a sideshow," Wyn Jones said.

"I should imagine there will be some red faces somewhere [at the IRB] for appealing the initial decision and coming up with the same decision, but that's not for me to comment on.

"I just get on with it and I am happy to shake his hand after the game as well."

Wyn Jones, 27, said he was not planning on being too hands-on as captain in the absence of the injured Sam Warburton.

"I don't really want to change anything, I just want to keep going the way I have going on a personal level," he said.

"I'm not going to tell the backs how to kick, pass or run. It's a case for me to do what I've been doing with the rest of the pack and hopefully bring about the win."


twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE