By George, he's still got it
RUGBY: Ageless warrior George Smith is still good enough to play for the Wallabies at 36 and his standard-setting for the Reds backrow is hard proof.
Flanker Hendrik Tui tossed the Smith curveball at the Australian selectors yesterday when saluting his two-club teammate's astonishing ability to rack up big performances.
Smith's riveting interstate dual last weekend with Wallaby Michael Hooper was all quality from both flankers and made a nonsense of the 11-year age difference.
Smith is a vital cog again on Saturday night against the Chiefs in New Plymouth to help the Reds shake off the desolation of their interstate loss.
With so many young players aboard, it would be easy to imagine a flat follow-up to the best 50-minute effort of the year.
"George took his game to another level against NSW with the physicality to his tackles and the balls he stole...he was everywhere," Tui said.
"He adds his experience to the Reds forwards but it's his intent and attitude at training that is making all our young guys better.
"Like all the Kiwi sides, George is really big on the 'second effort' mentality...making a tackle, getting up and contesting or lifting in a lineout and coming down into a strong maul position."
"If he can do it at 36, there's no excuse for young fellas to not be doing it, right?"
Tui has been a backrow partner for much of Smith's non-stop 10 months of 14 games for Japanese champions Suntory and nine more for the Reds.
Smith's former backrow partner Phil Waugh this week floated the idea that the evergreen's habits would still be valuable in next month's Wallabies squad for three Tests.
"Definitely, I think George would go well. His play is up to it but you'd have to check if he's closed that chapter," Tui said.
With David Pocock on a sabbatical, Liam Gill excelling in France and Sean McMahon still to return from injury, the stock of No.7s after Hooper is a little thin.
Smith has shutdown comeback talk before but a phone call from Wallabies boss Michael Cheika might turn this golden glow of nostalgia into something solid albeit short-term.
Fullback Karmichael Hunt has been given the game off after a heavy knock to the knee which means centre Duncan Paia'aua shuffling into a stopgap role.
Redhead Campbell Magnay gets the chance to shine at outside centre which means captain Samu Kerevi shifting one spot to inside centre.
"Campbell may be a bit underdone (just 56 minutes into his comeback) but he's a big, athletic footballer with aggression to his defence which is needed against the Chiefs," Stiles said.
Former Wallaby winger Chris Feauai-Sautia will make his comeback from a knee reconstruction for Souths against Norths at Courtney Oval on Saturday.
REDS: Duncan Paia'aua, Izaia Perese, Campbell Magnay, Samu Kerevi (c), Eto Nabuli, Quade Cooper, James Tuttle, Scott Higginbotham, George Smith, Hendrik Tui, Lukhan Tui, Rob Simmons, Sam Talakai, Stephen Moore, Sef Fa'agase. Reserves: Alex Mafi, Kirwan Sanday, Taniela Tupou, Izack Rodda, Leroy Houston, Nick Frisby, Hamish Stewart, Chris Kuridrani