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Australian veteran George Smith returns for final Test against the British and Irish Lions

Updated: Thursday, 04 Jul 2013 10:32 | Comments

George Smith has hailed as "class" by coach Robbie Deans
George Smith has hailed as "class" by coach Robbie Deans

Flanker George Smith has been recalled to the Australia team to face the British and Irish Lions in the third and final Test in Sydney on Saturday.

The 32-year-old, currently playing for the Brumbies on loan from Japanese side Suntory, stepped down from international duty at the start of 2010 but has been brought back to counter the physical power of the Lions back row on Saturday.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said: "He's class, isn't he?

"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."

Australia: K Beale; I Folau, A Ashley-Cooper, C Leali'ifano, J Tomane; J O'Connor, W Genia; B Robinson, S Moore, B Alexander, K Douglas , J Horwill (capt), B Mowen, G Smith, W Palu.  

In the only change to the starting line-up for the decider, he comes in at openside for his fourth appearance against the Lions in place of Michael Hooper, who drops to the bench, pushing Australia Under-20s captain Liam Gill out of the matchday 23.

"The decision to go with George in no way reflects any dissatisfaction 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, judgment 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."

Also on the bench at ANZ Stadium will be Western Force loose forward Ben McCalman, with Rob Horne stepping aside.

Deans added: "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."

The Aussie coach also had a few words to say about Brian O'Driscoll's exclusion from the Lions squad.

"We'd anticipated that Brian would be there, but we haven't spent the time and consideration that the Lions staff will on the matter," Deans said.

"It would have been a great sign off for Brian because he's a legend of the game.

"I have no doubt that he understands the nature of the industry. He's been around long enough to know that and understand that.

"He's been part of many Lions series so it would have been a fitting send off for him, but he'll also have perspective because he's a quality bloke.

"He'll be disappointed and from our perspective it's a little bit of experience gone.

"Those are decisions that aren't made lightly and Warren will have given it due consideration and believes what he has put together will serve him better.

"We have a lot of respect for Brian. He's stung us in the past in 2009, scoring in the last minute for Ireland to draw. He's a class player and class bloke."

Live radio coverage of Australia v Lions from 10.55 on Saturday 6 July on RTÉ 2fm and RTÉ.ie (RoI only).

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