Wallabies great George Smith has ruled himself out of making another comeback to the Brumbies to fill the void of injured flanker David Pocock.
Smith returned from Japan to Australia last year to play for the Brumbies in Super Rugby as well as the Wallabies in the British and Irish Lions series when a knee reconstruction brought an end to Pocock's season. Pocock returned for this season, but injured his knee again last Saturday against the Force and was forced to undergo a second reconstruction on Wednesday.
And this time, Smith says there are "several reasons" why he can't replace Pocock as he did last year, despite suggestions he would be asked. "I have not had any contact with the Brumbies coaching [staff] about a comeback. [But] I am not ready to make another Super Rugby campaign . . . and for several reasons,” Smith told Fairfax Media on Friday.
Smith is known for his durability to play back-to-back seasons without a break. But he says he now needs time out, especially before he resumes his playing career with the French Pro D2 team, Lyon who are on top of the table and hope to move up to the Top 14 next season.
Smith, who has been playing for Tokyo club Suntory, has signed a "pre-contract" with Lyon for two years and plans to relocate his family there from Australia where they have remained during his Japanese spell.
Since 2010, his life has been a rugby journey that has gone from Canberra to Toulon, to Suntory and Stade Francais, back to Suntory, the Brumbies and Wallabies and Suntory again before his return this week to Australia where he will be based until he moves to France and Lyon. "I enjoy playing rugby [rather] than doing the pre-season," Smith said. "But I need that mental break from rugby and that physical break. I want to put myself in the best condition for Lyon who will hopefully be in the Top 14 . . . and the way they have been going they will be. I haven't had an off-season for five years now. I wouldn't want to do another campaign with the Brumbies. But I will still wish them well."
Smith believes the Brumbies would be better served by falling back on their stock of back-rowers, including Jarrad Butler, Lachie McCaffrey, Jordan Smiler and Fotu Auelua.
"You trust your recruitment and you trust your players coming through," Smith said. "They are sufficient for players in the back-row position."
Smith said he felt for Pocock, but like so many people, he is highly impressed with his strength of character when the misfortune strikes. "It's a shame for Poey,” Smith said. "I can't comment on what it's like to come back from a knee reconstruction. But I had the chance to train with Poey last year in the rehab group when I was injured as well. He has a fantastic work ethic and is such an upbeat character."