Waugh: Smith so important

Former Qantas Wallabies star Phil Waugh believes the return of fellow flanker George Smith could have a huge impact on his country's hopes of denying the British & Irish Lions a first series success in 16 years. [more]

Waugh: Smith so important

Former Qantas Wallabies star Phil Waugh believes the return of fellow flanker George Smith could have a huge impact on his country’s hopes of denying the British & Irish Lions a first series success in 16 years.

Smith has been added to the Australian squad ahead of Saturday’s second Test as Robbie Deans and co look to bounce back from their 23-21 defeat in Brisbane two days ago.

The veteran openside won the last of his 110 international caps in 2009, with his subsequent moves to France and then Japan preventing him from adding to that tally over the past four years. But his short-term return to the Brumbies has given him the chance to re-ignite his Test career on the biggest stage of all in the must-win match in Melbourne.

Smith, who starred in the last Lions adventure in Australia 12 years ago, had been heavily tipped to feature in the series opener at the Suncorp Stadium before a knee injury robbed him of that opportunity but Waugh is convinced his presence in or around the matchday 23 this week will be a massive boost for the wounded Wallabies.

“It would be great to see George Smith in there somewhere during the series. Experience in big series’ is so important. I’d love to see George, even if he’s just in and around the team somewhere,” Waugh told this website before his ex-colleague had been called up.

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“As a junior player and someone who hasn’t been through the series before, to have someone around you who has been through it before is critical. To have someone like George, who’s played against the Lions and won man of the match in the deciding Test, is so important.”

Smith’s spell overseas and his lengthy absence from the Test scene, together with the fact that played against the Lions as far back as 2001, would suggest that his career should long be over. But it’s easy to forget that he is still in his early 30s and that his body hasn’t been broken by the rigours of a stellar career in the back row.

Smith himself insists that he feels as fresh as ever ahead of his likely return to the Green and Gold and the man who played with and against him for so long throughout the noughties isn’t surprised by his longevity.

“He’s so durable and resilient. I played with him, against him and alongside him for a decade and I can’t remember him missing this amount of time out of the game because he’s been very fortunate with injuries because he’s so resilient,” added Waugh.

“He’s still only 32 – it was his 21st birthday when he won man of the match in that third Test against the Lions.

“To stay at the pinnacle of the game for that long is pretty impressive. He’s certainly earned respect as a player, not only in Australia but all around the world.”

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