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RugbyU: Wallabies recall Smith for Lions showdown


Experienced flanker George Smith has been recalled to the Wallabies for the deciding Test against the British and Irish Lions on Saturday, four years after his last international appearance.

The 32-year-old Smith is the sole survivor of Australia's last series against the Lions 12 years ago and comes in for Michael Hooper as the Wallabies seek to retain the Tom Richards Trophy.

Smith, who last played for Australia in the 33-12 win over Wales in Cardiff in 2009, is the only change to the starting team which levelled the three-match series with a 16-15 win over the Lions in Melbourne last weekend.

With 110 appearances, the forward is Australia's third most-capped player behind his former Brumbies and Wallabies captain George Gregan, who clocked up 139 Tests, and Nathan Sharpe with 116.

Smith's opportunity came when he was loaned to his old ACT Brumbies team from Japan's Suntory Sungoliath this season and impressed Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.

"In terms of rugby it's the ultimate for me. To be selected in the starting XV for this decider, there's nothing higher for me at the moment," Smith said.

"I've been very fortunate throughout my career to be part of good teams and good management and organisations. To have longevity to play consecutive series in Australia, I'm very pleased."

Deans said selecting Smith for the Sydney showdown was easy.

"Pretty straightforward really, it's not a big decision to select George," he said.

"He's a bloke who's served Australian rugby enormously in the past and it was pretty evident that he would have been part of this campaign if he hadn't had the misfortune of his injury just prior to the squad announcement on May 19.

"He was very keen to be involved and his recovery from a hamstring injury was remarkable."

Smith's selection comes after the controversial axing of revered Irish centre Brian O'Driscoll -- the sole Lions survivor from the last 2001 Australian series -- from Saturday's third Test at the Olympic stadium.

O'Driscoll was expected to take over the captaincy in the absence of the injured Sam Warburton, but instead Welsh lock Alun Wyn Jones will lead the Lions.

Hooper is on the bench after starting in the first two Tests, while last year's Australia Under-20 captain, flanker Liam Gill, loses his bench spot.

"The decision to go with George in no way reflects any dissatisfaction with the way either Michael or Liam have played," 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.

"His expertise in the contact zone, where timing, judgement 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."

Smith becomes the fourth Wallaby -- after Tony Miller, John Thornett and Peter Johnson -- to have played the Lions across two separate tours, with his predecessors all having featured in 1959 and 1967.

Rugged Western Force loose forward Ben McCalman was brought into the replacements at the expense of centre Rob Horne, leaving Australia with a 6-2 forwards-backs split on the bench for what is expected to be another torrid 80-minute battle with the Lions.

Scrum-half Nick Phipps and uncapped fullback Jesse Mogg are Australia's only backline options among the replacements.

Australia (15-1) - Kurtley Beale; Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Leali'ifano, Joe Tomane; James O'Connor, Will Genia; Wycliff Palu, George Smith, Ben Mowen; James Horwill (capt), Kane Douglas; Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson.

Replacements: Saia Fainga'a, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper, Nick Phipps, Jesse Mogg.