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Smith clear to play against the Lions as Brumbies stay is extended

Legendary Australian flanker George Smith will remain playing rugby in the Super 15 for the Brumbies until the end of the season.

Smith was originally on a short term loan with the Brumbies from Japanese side Suntory as extra back row cover, however a long term knee injury to David Pocock has seen Smith become first choice openside for the Brumbies and arguably the in form back row player in the Super 15.

As such the Brumbies have been determined to secure Smith’s services until the end of the season, announcing the deal in the early hours of this morning.

The deal also paves the way for the former Toulon flanker to play against the British and Irish Lions this summer, though fellow opensides Michael Hooper and Liam Gill pose significant threats to Smith’s chances.

Smith will be facing Liam Gill this weekend though as they line up opposite each other when the Brumbies play the Queensland Reds in what is beginning to be viewed as a real audition for Smith to have a chance of winning his first cap for Australia since 2009.

Smith was obviously delighted to extend his stay, saying:

“This has been a special opportunity for me and my family, to return to the Brumbies for what will probably be the last time, I’ve already been lucky enough to build a legacy I am proud of with the club, so to be given another chance to add to that is exciting.”

“When I arrived I was impressed with the quality of the group in terms of rugby and also personalities. There is enough potential and drive there to achieve something with this team and I’m excited by the chance of being a part of it.”

Brumbies Head Coach Jake White also expressed his delight at extending Smith’s stay:

“As I’ve said all year, including a guy like George in your match-day 22 is an instant boost and I am excited to hear he’ll be with us for the rest of our campaign.”

“I’ve been in close contact with Suntory and I must say they have been a fantastic club to deal with. It’s been a pleasure from the start and I thank them for loaning George to us for the season.”

“Without being a distraction, this issue is obviously something that both the club and George have been considering for a number of months so it’s nice we can have it settled and get back to work.”

Smith’s former Toulon teammate and International adversary, Jonny Wilkinson, has just signed a new one-year contract with Toulon after opting against retirement after teammates Matt Giteau and Freddie Michalak convinced him that he was still a valuable asset.

With Wilkinson in fine form and his Toulon side facing Saracens at Twickenham in the Heineken Cup semi finals next weekend it could be possible that these two great players of the modern era could find themselves lining up against each other in the Lions test series.

Both players featured in the 2001 test series, which the Wallabies won 2-1. The Lions took a 1-0 series lead after the first test at the Gabba, in one of the most impressive Lions performances in recent memory. They then led at half time in the second test before Joe Roff intercepted a Jonny Wilkinson pass to spark an Aussie revival.

The British and Irish Lions play their first game on tour on the 1st June against the Barbarians in Hong Kong ahead of the first test against Australia on the 22nd June at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.

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