George Smith wants to turn Saturday’s series decider between the Qantas Wallabies and the British & Irish Lions into the international farewell he never had.
Australia’s third most-capped player made the last of his 110 Test appearances against Wales in Cardiff in 2009, but now plans to give his family and friends something special to remember as he signs off for the final time on Saturday night.
But while Smith, 33 in nine days time, says his appearance in the third Test against the Lions will be his last in gold, Qantas Wallabies coach Robbie Deans believes he could go on to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
“In terms of rugby it's the ultimate for me. To be selected in the starting XV for this decider, there's nothing higher for me at the moment,” said Smith.
"I'm obviously very pleased that Robbie's gone my way in terms of selection. Michael Hooper and Liam Gill played extremely well in the last two games, but to get this opportunity is huge for me.
"I'm pretty sure it will be, no, will be my last Test. I've had a fantastic international career and knowing when to bow out, and the legacy I've sort of left behind on the international stage I'm very proud of.
"This just caps it off. 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.
"That will be fitting for my career to look back on and say, I've finished on a great occasion, a big moment and I'm really looking forward to it."
Smith is also chasing a record of having played in two winning series against the Lions, having played in all three Tests in 2001. He would be the first player to achieve that in the professional era and the eighth overall.
But what is it that he will bring to the Australian side and dressing room at the ANZ Stadium?
“He’s a great bloke to have around. He’s a quality bloke aside from the game, and he is very experienced, so he will bring a lot of composure to the group. It is good to have someone like George alongside you in the game,” said Deans.
“There aren’t too many moments he hasn’t experienced and he is the only bloke who has experienced playing against the Lions previously. It is a rare occurrence to go round and get that opportunity again and no doubt he is very excited.
“It was pretty straightforward to select him really – it wasn’t a big decision. He’s a bloke who has served Australian rugby enormously in the past and it was pretty evident that he would have been part of this campaign, if he hadn’t had the misfortune of his injury, just prior to the squad announcement.
“He was obviously pretty keen to be involved and his recovery was remarkable, but that’s George. He’s clearly a sly trainer because he gives the pretence that he doesn’t enjoy training, but to have the longevity he has, aside from good genetics, he’s a master of his disciplines.
“He’s better than when he left, to be frank. He’s played some remarkable rugby in Super Rugby and we’re lucky to get the benefit of that experience. He’s in better shape now than when he left and he’s had some great support to that end, but most importantly he’s done the work.”