George Smith's return confirmed

DAVID POLKINGHORNE
Last updated 15:29 25/02/2013
George Smith
Getty Images
HOME COMING: George Smith in action for his Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath.

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Sometimes fairytales do come true, but the ACT Brumbies hope the Cinderella story of Wallabies legend George Smith's return will not end until they claim this year's Super Rugby title.

If the return of Clyde Rathbone wasn't enough, now the Brumbies faithful have the return of Smith to salivate over as well.

Smith is contracted with Suntory Sungoliath, but the Japanese club has allowed the former Brumbies No7 to rejoin his old club on an initial 12-week contract.

Suntory's season finished on Sunday and the players don't start pre-season training until June.

With backrower Ita Vaea ruled out for the season due to a heart condition, the Brumbies looked for cover for the big No 8 and hatched a cunning plan - the return of one of the club's favourite sons.

Brumbies back coach Stephen Larkham confirmed the loss of Vaea was the reason behind Smith's signing.

''That's the reasoning behind it,'' he said.

''With Ita I guess we need to fill another spot and George could potentially do that for us on a short-term contract.

''There's a lot of competition for the backrow positions at the moment and the guys have performed well so far this year.

''The way I envisage George coming in is he's more of a back-up and a bit of stability for the guys ... I don't see George taking the spot of anyone in the team at the moment.''

Smith is one of the greatest openside flankers of all time and while the Brumbies boast the heir to his throne, David Pocock, Smith will easily slot in alongside him in either of the other two backrow spots.

Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said Smith might start on the bench initially but it wouldn't take long for him to force his way into the side.

''If you had a guy like that in the squad I'd say by his own standards he'd push his way into your team somehow, whether he starts there or not's irrelevant,'' Mowen said.

''At some stage of the year he'd be in the side without a doubt.

''From all reports his quality hasn't dropped off at all.

''I think the way that he played through his 110 Tests he was super consistent so I can't imagine that's a part of his game that's dropped off.''

Smith's recruitment shows how fair dinkum the Brumbies are about ending their eight-year play-offs drought and bringing the Super Rugby title back to the nation's capital for the first time since 2004.

The announcement comes on the back of the successful return to Super Rugby of Rathbone.

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Rathbone retired in 2009 due to a chronic knee problem and overcame weight issues and depression to play his 50th Super Rugby game for the Brumbies in round one against the Queensland Reds.

He then scored the first try of his comeback against the Melbourne Rebels on Friday.

Rathbone and Smith played together in the triumphant 2004 Super Rugby grand final and the pair could find themselves running onto Canberra Stadium again for the Brumbies clash against arch rivals NSW Waratahs in a fortnight.

Smith played 110 Tests for the Wallabies and 128 Super Rugby caps with the Brumbies over 10 seasons.

It will have Brumbies fans reminiscing about 2004 and dreaming of what's to come in 2013.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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