Rugby Union


Smith in exile for Lions Test series

Wallabies great George Smith's chances of playing against the British and Irish Lions remain unclear because the ARU is yet to contact the flanker to gauge his interest.

And with the Wallabies to have a camp in Sydney next week without the 32-year-old, it's a sign coach Robbie Deans is ready to put his faith in rising openside flankers Michael Hooper and Liam Gill.

Seven weeks after making a surprise return to Australian rugby, Smith has had no contact with Deans, despite growing calls for him to be a part of the Lions series.

The Wallabies have a two-day camp in Sydney on Sunday and Monday with a squad of 30 in preparation for the June-July Tests.

With Australia's best No.7, David Pocock, out for the rest of the season, Smith could be a perfect replacement in the Wallabies' set-up. But Smith says his focus is on his stint with the Brumbies and any potential Test recall will not distract him from his Super Rugby goals.

He is still planning to finish his short-term Australian comeback on May 31 - with two regular-season Super Rugby games remaining - and return to Japan.


Any extended stay to play for the Wallabies or finish the campaign with the Brumbies is dependent on his Japanese club Suntory.

''The Lions series talk isn't a distraction for me because I know where I stand with that,'' Smith said.

''There hasn't been any direct or indirect conversations with the ARU, so for me it's very easy - I'm here with the Brumbies and contracted to the Suntory Sungoliaths.

''For me it's not a problem, but there's obviously talk outside of that because I have had experience playing against the Lions in the past, so it's natural there would be discussion there.

''As it stands, I'm contracted with the Brumbies until [May 31] and after that I've got a break planned with my family.

''Would I like to continue with the Brumbies? Of course I would because I feel like training alongside this team would prepare me well for the Suntory season.

''First and foremost my goal is to be in the best condition I can for Suntory and, with respect to Suntory, I can't look beyond that because they've allowed me to be in this position now.''

Smith has been one of the Brumbies' most consistent performers since making his return. His workload has been greater than expected following Pocock rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament and having a knee reconstruction last month.

Pocock's absence rocketed Smith into Wallabies talks, especially given Hooper and Gill's international experience is limited. But so far Deans has resisted the temptation.

Smith has relished reclaiming the Brumbies' position he made his own in a decade of dominance for the club. He has spent the past two years playing in France and Japan and will play against the Otago Highlanders on Friday night for the first time since his Canberra Stadium farewell in May 2010.

A month of tough matches against South African opponents left the Brumbies battered but Smith said he felt comfortable being back in Super Rugby.

''I was pretty excited to get this opportunity, so I feel comfortable, but not too comfortable and I know I need to do a lot of work on the field,'' Smith said.

''I'm very pleased to be a part of this group … it energises me as a player and I haven't been in this position where I'm the oldest player in a squad.

''I feel I've matured as a player … every game comes with its challenges and in Japan you tackle guys who are 110 kilograms at max, but here you're taking on guys [who are] 120 kilograms.''