SYDNEY (Reuters) - The ACT Brumbies' unbeaten start to the season came to a shuddering halt at the weekend but another superb display from George Smith will only increase calls for his return to the Wallabies squad for the British and Irish Lions series.
The 32-year-old openside flanker, who won 110 caps before his international retirement in 2010, was once again outstanding despite the Brumbies' 35-22 Super Rugby defeat at the hands of South Africa's Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.
Australia coach Robbie Deans has already ruled out a recall for Smith, saying he was not eligible because of his contract with a Japanese club, but that was before he lost his first-choice number seven David Pocock for the season.
Pocock, one of the world's best flankers, underwent knee reconstruction surgery 10 days ago and Australian Rugby Union (ARU) chief Bill Pulver said he was expecting a call from the Kiwi coach about Smith.
"Given David Pocock's situation, I'd expect Robbie Deans would be eager to make inquiries," Pulver told Monday's The Australian newspaper.
Should Deans make the request and the bureaucratic hurdles be jumped, Smith would be in line to become one of the few players to play against the Lions in two separate series in June and July.
In his first season of international rugby, Smith played all three tests on the 2001 Lions tour, when Australia came from a match down to win the series.
The dreadlocks that once made Smith such a distinctive figure on the pitch have long gone but he has shown for the Brumbies this season that he remains a significant force at the breakdown.
Before Pocock's injury, however, openside flanker was one of the few positions where Deans had plenty of options.
Michael Hooper made an impressive entry to the test arena last year when Pocock was sidelined by an injury to his other knee, while young Queensland Reds flanker Liam Gill also made his international debut last season.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; editing by Ian Ransom)