There are many things that are different about George Smith from the young talent who turned 21 during the 2001 British and Irish Lions tour.
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But the 110-Test veteran, who has been called into the Wallabies squad for the second Test at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night, believes the machinations that occur between his ears have been most significant.

”I can see myself as a player back then … who just played on instinct rather than knowing what the play was all about and what the game was all about,” Smith said.

”Whereas now I can see why we do things, how you anticipate things … just different aspects of the game I’m more aware of.

”I was definitely lost in 2001 in terms of my rugby awareness and I definitely now feel like I have an awareness of what’s going on. Instead of aimlessly running around with my head chopped off, I actually know why I’m doing things on the field.”

Smith, who had been set to be named in the initial Wallabies squad before suffering a knee injury last month, arrived in Melbourne on Sunday, along with backs Jesse Mogg and Ben Tapuai, as cover after Australia’s heavy injury toll from its first Test loss against the Lions on Saturday.

It’s been almost four years since the 32-year-old last played for the Wallabies, but coach Robbie Deans’ decision to recall him shows that he could be in line for a place on the bench at Etihad Stadium for the second Test.

His fairytale return to Australian rugby – with his Japanese club Suntory giving permission for him to play at the Brumbies until the end of the Super Rugby season – looked as though it might have been brought to an early end when he suffered a knee injury in the round-14 game against NSW.

But the injury proved not to be as serious as initially believed when it was assessed as an eight-to-12 week recovery.

Smith said he was confident that he would be up to playing in Australia’s must-win game on Saturday if he was selected.

”I wouldn’t have accepted the invitation to be here if it [the knee] wasn’t [right],” he said. ”I’m ready to go. There’s no confusion about my fitness or my knee injury because it’s not existent any more in my mind.

”Physically I’m ready to go, but whether Robbie goes my way is different. It’s up to the coaching staff to make that decision.”

But Smith said regardless of what happened, his return to Australian rugby would definitely finish this year. ”My wife would definitely say ‘no’ [to continuing in Australia]. I’m contracted with Suntory and I’m looking to extend with them,” he said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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