Australia 16-41 British & Irish Lions, 3rd Test, Sydney
George Smith fairytale becomes nightmare
July 7, 2013
Wallabies flanker George Smith is helped from the field, Australia v British & Irish Lions, ANZ Stadium, Sydney, July 6, 2013
George Smith feared a 'Lealiifano moment' in his comeback © Getty Images

This was not the return the great George Smith had in mind.

Making his comeback and farewell to Test rugby on the very same night, Smith endured one of the most forgettable Tests of his 111-match international career as the Wallabies crashed to a painful series loss to the British & Irish Lions at ANZ Stadium in Sydney. Playing his first Test in four years, Smith was on, off, on, off, on and finally off the pitch for one last time as a 41-16 loser.

Initially, it looked like his swansong would last but four minutes and 39 seconds after the champion flanker clashed heads with Lions hooker Richard Hibbard and was escorted off the pitch in a groggy state. Smith was back in the thick of the action less than five minutes later, living up to coach Robbie Deans' assessment as the most resilient No.7 he'd ever seen, but there was to be no fairytale. There were no telling turnovers, either, and most certainly no repeat of his 2001 series triumph over the Lions. And Smith certainly was none too pleased when Deans substituted him briefly after 26 minutes when prop Ben Alexander was sin-binned for collapsing the Australian scrum.

Turning 33 next week, Smith's inclusion was the feelgood story of the week for the Wallabies in the build-up to the most significant home Test since the Rugby World Cup 2003 final at the same venue, but it was the Lions No.7, Sean O'Brien, instead who stole the spotlight.

Robbie Deans predicts Wallabies will bounce back

While Deans was lauded for recalling Smith, Lions coach Warren Gatland was widely condemned for dumping Brian O'Driscoll for the series climax. Gatland, though, had the last laugh, with the Welshman who wore the No.13 jumper instead of the Irish superstar, Jonathan Davies, delivering the sweet last pass for Jonny Sexton's second-half try that sealed the Wallabies' fate. All up, Gatland selected 10 Welshman in his starting XV and, on this rare occasion, Smith was unable to keep up with the Joneses.

"Obviously it's not the way he would have liked to have finished," Deans said. "But it was tremendous that he could get a send-off in Australia. He's a great player. He deserves the respect that he's got."


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