Champion flanker George Smith is a big step closer to a recall for the Wallabies against the British and Irish Lions after his Japanese club cleared him to remain with the Brumbies for the rest of their Super Rugby season.
Originally contracted on a short-term deal until the end of May, Smith has now been cleared to play with the competition-leading Brumbies until their last game in 2013, including a possible finals campaign.
That means he’ll still be in Australia when the three-Test series against the Lions is played in June and July.
Smith, a veteran of 110 Tests for Australia, has shown in recent weeks he remains one of the premier openside flankers in world rugby.
But the Australian Rugby Union would still need to set a precedent by allowing an overseas-contracted player to appear for the Wallabies if coach Robbie Deans is to call him up.
Deans would certainly value his experience, especially with first-choice openside flanker David Pocock out for the season with a knee injury.
There are also other strong young contenders for that position in the Waratahs’ Michael Hooper and Reds’ Liam Gill.
Smith welcomed the chance to see out the season with the Brumbies, giving him a crack at third Super Rugby title, having lifted the trophy with the Brumbies previously in 2001 and 2004.
“This has been a special opportunity for me and my family, to return to the Brumbies for what will probably be the last time,” Smith said.
“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.”
Smith has featured in 134 games for the Brumbies after making his debut in 2000 against the Sharks.