The selection of Australia's third highest capped player four years after his most recent Test appearance highlights how worried the Wallabies are about their breakdown performance in the opening two Tests. Smith's last appearance in the green and gold was in the 33-12 win over Wales in Cardiff at the end of the 2009 Spring tour.
"He's class, isn't he? 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," said Wallabies head coach Robbie Deans.
"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.
"His expertise in the contact zone, where timing, judgement and physicality is everything, is going to be critical. Being able to call on George allows us to lighten the load on Michael while retaining the ability to inject him into what is sure to be a fast-paced and highly physical contest."
Smith became the 75th player to captain Australia when appointed to lead the Wallabies against Canada at the 2007 Rugby World Cup. He led the side on six occasions in Tests through the 2007-2009 period.
The decision to request an early release from his existing Australian Rugby Union contract in 2010, saw Smith depart for French club Toulon after that year's Super Rugby season. This denied him the opportunity of a farewell Test on Australian soil, which now comes 12 years after he first played the Lions, and 13 years after making his Test debut.
Smith, who celebrates his 33rd birthday eight days after the third Test, boasts 110 previous Test appearances, six behind Nathan Sharpe, and 29 behind Australia's most capped player, his former Brumbies team-mate George Gregan.
While Smith is the only change to last week's starting XV, the Wallabies' expectations of another demanding forward exchange has been reflected in the make-up of the bench, which reverts to a six-forward, two-back split. Western Force loose forward Ben McCalman joins the reserves as he returns to the international fold for the first time since helping Australia to beat Wales in Cardiff at the end of 2011.
15. Kurtley Beale (Melbourne Rebels)
14. Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs)
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs)
12. Christian Leali'ifano (Brumbies)
11. Joe Tomane (Brumbies)
10. James O'Connor (Melbourne Rebels)
9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)
1. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
4. Kane Douglas (NSW Waratahs)
5. James Horwill (Queensland Reds, captain)
6. Ben Mowen (Brumbies)
7. George Smith (Brumbies)
8. Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs)
16. Saia Fainga'a (Queensland Reds)
17. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
18. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
19. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds)
20. Ben McCalman (Western Force)
21. Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs)
22. Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels)
23. Jesse Mogg (Brumbies)