Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Smith notches up 111 internationals with final Lions test

Australia rugby player George Smith prepares for a training session today before the final test against the Lions. Photo / AP
Australia rugby player George Smith prepares for a training session today before the final test against the Lions. Photo / AP

Exceptional Wallaby flanker George Smith will ignore any Lord Nelson taunts from his rivals when he suits up for his final test against the Lions.

Smith will play his 111th international on Saturday in Sydney, bridging a 12 year gap since he was called into action against the 2001 tourists at the same ground.

Irish skipper Brian O'Driscoll also began that match but will miss his final chance at personal glory after being dropped from the tourists' 23 for the tour decider.

English sportsmen are superstitious about the 111 number because of the theory that Lord Nelson had one eye, one arm and a solitary leg even though that absence was never noted.

Smith is someone who has debunked most fallacies in his superb career.

He retired from the Wallabies three years ago but answered an SOS this season for a three month deal to help the Brumbies when skipper David Pocock wrecked his knee.

Smith was so good he was persuaded to stay on and try for the Wallabies series with the Lions until he too damaged his knee. The initial prognosis was a 12 week recovery but Smith recovered in half that time.

He was ignored last week because the Wallabies did not feel he was sharp enough.

However the Lions' dominance at the breakdown has forced a rethink.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Smith will start in the No 7 jersey with Michael Hooper on the bench and Liam Gill forced out of the match group of 23 players.

The team will be announced tomorrow but the newspaper was adamant Smith was starting in his favourite No 7 jersey making him the only Australian to have played in successive Lions series.

Coach Robbie Deans was coy about Smith's selection but did point out the Wallabies had to improve the tackled ball area of their game after Sam Warburton dominated that area in Melbourne.

The rejigged Lions' backrow of Sean O'Brien, Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau will carry plenty of sting into the contact areas and Smith should be a great counter for the Wallabies.

The other Wallaby change is to bring Ben McCalman onto the bench after a two year test absence. He will form part of a six forwards, two backs reserve unit.

(Likely) Wallabies: Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper , Christian Leali'ifano, Joe Tomane, James O'Connor, Will Genia, Wycliff Palu, George Smith, Ben Mowen, Kane Douglas, James Horwill, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander. Reserves: Saia Faingaa, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper, Nick Phipps, Jesse Mogg.

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