Robbie Deans has named George Smith to start for the Wallabies against the British and Irish Lions in the deciding Test in Sydney.
Smith’s return is a possible farewell Test appearance on Australian soil, after previously having retired during the 33-12 win over Wales in Cardiff at the end of the 2009 Spring Tour.
The influence of Smith in the Brumbies was noted by Deans.
“He’s class, isn’t he?” said Deans.
“To have achieved what George has throughout his career, and return to play at the highest level, after such a long break, is a testament to the quality of the man, both as a person, and as a player.”
Michael Hooper drops to the bench, while Liam Gill has missed selection as speculated.
“The decision to go with George in no way reflects any dis-satisfaction with the way either Michael or Liam have played,” Deans says.
“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, 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.”
This has seen a 6-forward, 2-back bench, with Ben McCalman called in, while Rob Horne makes way.
Nick Phipps and uncapped fullback Jesse Mogg provide the run on options across the back line.
“The fact that this will be the third sell-out crowd, in what is such a competitive Australian sporting market, says it all,” said Deans.
“Both sets of fans have been fantastic, the atmosphere in ground amazing, but with 80,000 seats available this weekend; this is our chance to drown out the sea of red.
“I encourage all Australians – both those going to the game and those watching it around the country – to get into gold and get behind your Wallabies.
“It really does make a massive difference to the players. You’ve seen how closely matched the two teams are: that support could be the point of difference that gets the Wallabies over the line.”
The Wallabies team to play the British & Irish Lions in the third and deciding Tom Richards Cup Test on Saturday July 6 at ANZ Stadium, Sydney (kick-off: 8.05pm AEST, 11.05am UKST) is:
15. Kurtley Beale (Melbourne Rebels)
14. Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs)
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs)
12. Christian Leali’ifano (Brumbies)
11. Joe Tomane (Brumbies)
10. James O’Connor (Melbourne Rebels)
9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)
8. Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs)
7. George Smith (Brumbies)
6. Ben Mowen (Brumbies)
5. James Horwill (Queensland Reds, captain)
4. Kane Douglas (NSW Waratahs)
3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
1. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
Run on Reserves:
16. Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
17. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
18. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
19. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds)
20. Ben McCalman (Western Force)
21. Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs)
22. Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels)
23. Jesse Mogg (Brumbies)
More to follow.