IT MAY not be not be in the Warren Gatland league of gambles, but Australia are pinning their hopes of denying the British and Irish Lions a first series victory this century on a man who has not played international rugby for four years.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has turned to flanker George Smith, who turns 33 this month, to beef up his pack for tomorrow’s decisive final Test in Sydney in the only change to the team that narrowly defeated Gatland’s tourists last week.
Smith, who won the last of his 110 caps in 2009 and retired from Test duty the following year, missed out on the original squad because of a knee injury but Deans has drafted in the veteran for Michael Hooper as the hosts aim to clinch the series.
“It was pretty straightforward to select him. 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,” said Deans.
“It’s been a tough series. The first two games have been rugged, especially at the breakdown, and we feel 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, judgment 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 a fast-paced and highly physical contest.”