- Openside returns for 111th Test in Sydney in place of Michael Hooper
- Robbie Deans cites “combination of experience and fresh legs”
Photo: Getty Images
Veteran openside flanker George Smith has been recalled to Robbie Deans’ starting line-up for Saturday’s series finale between Australia and the British and Irish Lions in Sydney.
Smith comes in for in-form Michael Hooper – who was extremely influential in the final stages of last weekend’s second Test – and is set to win his 111th cap after impressing for the Brumbies over the course of the current Super 15 campaign.
That means Liam Gill drops out of the squad altogether, while the only other change to the Wallabies’ match-day 23 sees replacement centre Rob Horne swapped for Western Force back-rower Ben McCalman as Deans plumps for a six-two forward-heavy split on the bench.
Having made his senior international debut in November 2000 against France, Smith won the man-of-the-match award in the deciding encounter of the 2001 series between the Lions and Australia on his 21st birthday – a game the Wallabies won 29-23.
Now 32, he returns to the fold for his first Test since 2009 via stints in club rugby with Stade Francais, Toulon and Japanese outfit Sanyo Wild Knights.
Photo: Getty Images
And after some exceptional performances for the Brumbies after joining his old side on a short-term contract – especially at the breakdown, which is sure to be a pivotal area on Saturday – Smith is likely to be a key figure at the ANZ Stadium opposite Ireland’s Sean O’Brien.
“He's class, isn't he?” said Deans. “To have achieved what George has throughout his career, and return to play at the highest level, after such a long break, is a testament to the quality of the man, both as a person, and as a player.
“The decision to go with George in no way reflects any dissatisfaction with the way either Michael or Liam have played, but it has been a tough series.
“The first two games have been rugged, especially at the breakdown, and we feel that the combination of experience and fresh legs that George brings is the right way to go for this week.”
Australia team to face the British and Irish Lions on Saturday, July 6 at ANZ Stadium (kick-off 11;05am BST): 15. Kurtley Beale, 14. Israel Folau, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12. Christian Leali'ifano, 11. Joe Tomane, 10. James O'Connor, 9. Will Genia; 1. Benn Robinson, 2. Stephen Moore, 3. Ben Alexander, 4. James Horwill (captain), 5. Kane Douglas, 6. Ben Mowen, 7. George Smith, 8. Wycliff Palu.
Replacements: 16. Saia Fainga'a, 17. James Slipper, 18. Sekope Kepu, 19. Rob Simmons, 20. Ben McCalman, 21. Michael Hooper, 22. Nick Phipps, 23. Jesse Mogg.