George Smith will play his final game for an Australian side on Friday. Picture: Nigel Hallett
George Smith will play his final game for an Australian side on Friday. Picture: Nigel Hallett

Red sheds light on Wallabies mix

WALLABIES great George Smith is certain the David Pocock-Michael Hooper partnership can be a force at next year's rugby union World Cup now vibrant ball-carting backrow foils are emerging.

Smith diverted from his own farewell game media conference on Monday to talk up his positive view of the backrow future at both the Wallabies and the Queensland Reds.

It wasn't just a chance to push Queensland's Caleb Timu and Lukhan Tui, the Test backrow experiments of June, but dynamic 110kg Brumbies wildcard Isi Naisarani.

"There's always going to be different opinions on whether that Pocock-Hoops make-up is going to work but I'm definitely comfortable with it for the World Cup," Smith said.

"Pocock is very abrasive at the breakdown and can be a real momentum-shifter with his turnovers while Hoops is constantly working, looking for opportunities to attack and brings very good defence.

"To me, they complement each other very well and it's a No.6 that the coaching staff are still striving to find for the perfect combination.

"A decent ball-carrying backrower of size is what Australia needs and I think Caleb and Lukhan are showing they can have a fantastic impact.

Michael Hooper and David Pocock led Australia to the 2015 World Cup final. Picture: Getty
Michael Hooper and David Pocock led Australia to the 2015 World Cup final. Picture: Getty

Smith said he thought Fijian Naisarani, 23, had "fantastic potential" and would be a significant selection factor once he is eligible for the Wallabies in December.

A cautious approach to his twisted knee means Smith, 37, is still no certainty to be part of his own Reds' send-off against the Sunwolves at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

"It's one game for me and (either way) I'll have a lot of good memories from my time at the Reds," Smith said.

"The Reds have some exciting talent coming through in the backrow where I think Liam Wright is a natural flanker (as his replacement)."

Smith made the valid point that a change of mindset was needed next year to squeeze out the Reds' full promise because "rebuilding" can only be a crutch for so long.

"For us, we've been in a rebuilding stage and still are a little bit," Smith said.

Brumbies backrower Isi Naisarani impressed against the Chiefs. Picture: Getty
Brumbies backrower Isi Naisarani impressed against the Chiefs. Picture: Getty

"We have got to get out of that mindset and start thinking of ourselves as Super Rugby players who can attain the next level and that includes (more) playing for Australia."

Playing 22 times at flanker for the Reds over the past two seasons has bumped Smith's remarkable resume in Super Rugby to 164 games over 14 seasons.

Don't expect any farewell tears before he heads to his eighth club, Bristol, in England.

"It's highly likely it will be my last professional game here in Australia but I'm not really that emotional when it comes to farewells and stuff," Smith said.

Smith's urge to face the Sunwolves is more to do with redressing the Reds' worse showing of the year - the 63-28 collapse when the teams played in Tokyo in May.

George Smith and Moses Sorovi in Queensland’s indigenous jersey. Picture: AAP
George Smith and Moses Sorovi in Queensland’s indigenous jersey. Picture: AAP

"We were humbled and it's a game I want to be part of," Smith said.

Smith will wear the Reds' new Indigenous Round jersey, designed by Samantha Booth, whose three children attend Woorabinda State School where she is a teacher aide.


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