Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says door still open for ageless George Smith

Reds player George Smith takes on the defence during the round one Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Sharks. Photo / Getty
Reds player George Smith takes on the defence during the round one Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Sharks. Photo / Getty

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika hasn't given up hope of seeing veteran flanker George Smith back in a gold No.7 jumper.

Turning 37 in June, Smith has all but called time on his international career despite once again showing his class in his return to Super Rugby with Queensland, following a series of title-winning stints in Europe and Japan.

The ageless warrior insists he remains competitive with the best after being among the Reds' standouts in Saturday night's season-opening 28-26 win over the Sharks in Brisbane.

Smith, though, has already told Cheika he's done with the Wallabies after a decorated 111-Test career.

But that hasn't deterred the influential mentor whose masterful motivating and powers of persuasion have already earned Cheika world coach of the year honours in 2015.

"Once he gets back and gets the experience of playing, which he had first up last weekend, and got back into the groove of Super Rugby, just let him see how he enjoys it for a while," Cheika said on Fox Sports' new Kick and Chase program.

"If he's playing well enough and I happen to cross paths with him in the street, you never know; I might just see what he's doing.

"But he's still playing at a very good level, obviously, and realistically at the last World Cup in 2015, if we weren't so blessed with No.7s who are playing here in front of us, then I think he would have been an automatic selection to be honest, by the way he was playing overseas.

"But because those players were playing here in front of us and are pretty handy players themselves in Pocock, Hooper, McMahon, those sorts of guys, it sort of put him behind the eight-ball a bit there."

Refusing to shut the door on seemingly any former Wallabies returning after stints overseas, Cheika is even keeping an open mind about James O'Connor.

In a rollercoaster career littered with off-field misdemeanours, O'Connor's weekend arrest and subsequent charge of cocaine possession is set to spell an end to his spell with French giants Toulon.

Former Wallabies captain Phil Kearns also believes O'Connor's international career is over.

But Cheika - who described chasing the big money in Europe at the height of their careers as "fool's gold" - indicated the 26-year-old serial offender may yet receive another chance.

"James, it's disappointing for him," he said.

"(But) we've got to take the football out of it for a second and say 'he's obviously a good lad deep down. Otherwise he wouldn't be in this game.

"If he wasn't, he'd be off doing other stuff. He wouldn't want to play footy, be in a team sport, have the camaraderie around him being in that.

"So there's a good lad in there somewhere and you've just got to leave the footy out of it for a minute and let the guy get the assistance he needs to get back personally first of all and then see what happens with that with footy."

- AAP

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