Flanker George Smith will make a sensational return to Test rugby after being named to start for Australia in the decisive third Test against the British and Irish Lions.
Smith retired from international rugby in 2010 after making 110 appearances for Australia – including all three tests against the 2001 British Lions – and will win his 111th cap against the tourists at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium.
The 32-year-old’s surprise selection sees incumbent open-side Michael Hooper dropped to the bench in the only change to the starting line-up from the side that beat the Lions 16-15 in Melbourne last weekend.
Liam Gill, the third open-side in the squad, misses out – a tough call on a player whose late line-out steal played a major role in Australia winning the second test last weekend.
“The decision to go with George in no way reflects any dissatisfaction with the way either Michael or Liam have played,” coach Robbie Deans said.
“But it has been a tough series – the first two games have been rugged, especially at the breakdown, and we feel that 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 what is sure to be a fast-paced and highly physical contest.”