Rugby: Dreadlocked menace George Smith now smoother, smarter threat

George Smith. Photo / Supplied
George Smith. Photo / Supplied

Those expecting the old George Smith to rock Suncorp Stadium tonight will be briefly disappointed before they realise why he rates the new model as better.

It's easy to get stuck in a time warp with Smith as the dreadlocked menace who terrorised opponents at the breakdown a decade ago for the Wallabies and ACT Brumbies.

Smith has evolved just as a young tearaway fast bowler called Dennis Lillee did when he became a smarter, more scheming world-beater in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Flanker Smith has never been a one-trick pony and he would not have survived at the top level until 36 if he was.

Smith's backrow partnership with Scott Higginbotham and raw-boned Adam Korczyk is one of the most exciting selection steps for the Brisbane-based franchise.

Coach Nick Stiles made it clear that getting the right backrow balance was all-important when tackling a big-bodied, physical pack like that of the Durban-based Sharks.

Higginbotham is the lineout-winning, ball-running element and Korczyk fizzes with breakdown energy and youthful mobility in a frame he has bulked up to 107kg.

"Look, George is a freak and having a blindside flanker like Korczyk, who can play like another No7, is a point of advantage for us," Stiles said.

"And we get a really good ball-running backrower like Hendrik Tui coming into the game off the bench with his impact."

Smith was adamant that while he's slower than he used to be, he makes up for it with quick thinking.

"I hope they don't expect the George Smith of old because I've developed into a different player," Smith said of being moulded by his French, Japanese and English club experiences.

"I'd rather be the player I am now. I may not be as fast as I was when I was 19 but I think I'm a lot smarter in the way I play and I read the game a lot better."

It is a new era for the Reds, with just six starters remaining from the side which limped out of last year's meek three-win season seven months ago.

Reds: Karmichael Hunt, Chris Kuridrani, Samu Kerevi, Duncan Paia'aua, Eto Nabuli, Quade Cooper, Nick Frisby, Scott Higginbotham, George Smith, Adam Korczyk, Kane Douglas, Rob Simmons, Sam Talakai, Stephen Moore, James Slipper (c). Reserves: Andrew Ready, Markus Vanzati, Sef Fa'agase, Izack Rodda, Hendrik Tui, James Tuttle, Jake McIntyre, Izaia Perese.

- NZ Herald

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