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Aussie duo 'close to recalls'

Published 27/05/2015

George Smith, pictured, has backed Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell for World Cup selection
George Smith, pictured, has backed Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell for World Cup selection

Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell are "very close to getting a recall" for Australia's World Cup campaign, according to flanker George Smith.

Evergreen back-rower Smith will swap Lyon for Wasps this summer, but could end up unlikely to break back into Michael Cheika's Wallabies squad.

The 34-year-old will take a seat on the bench for the Barbarians in Thursday night's clash with Ireland at Limerick's Thomond Park, among a talent-rich squad named by coach Robbie Deans.

Australia have relaxed their selection policy to consider overseas-based players for the first time, but only those with 60 or more caps.

Smith more than qualifies owing to his startling 111-Test career - that includes the 2003 World Cup final against England - but he may not squeeze into Cheika's Wallabies plans.

"The selection policy change has been well-received by the public," Smith told Press Association Sport.

"I think the Australia Rugby Union have shown some good forward-thinking decisions there with the new criteria to come in.

"To play 60 Test matches is not an easy challenge to achieve in Australia.

"And to have the long service as Wallabies who do meet that criteria I think it's great they are rewarded with an opportunity to play overseas but also keep that connection with the Wallabies."

Toulon's Australia duo Giteau and Mitchell have helped the Cote d'Azur club to a third-straight European crown this season, and could well now be primed to end their Wallabies exile.

Giteau has not featured for Australia since being dropped by then-Wallabies boss Robbie Deans for the 2011 World Cup.

That move prompted his Toulon switch, but after four years in the wilderness the selection goalposts have now moved sufficiently for current Australia boss Cheika to bring him back into the fold.

Winger Mitchell joined Toulon in 2013, well aware his Test career would be up in smoke, but now he too is back in consideration.

Smith retired from Test rugby in 2010 and signed for Toulon before embarking on a two-year stint in Japan.

The Brumbies signed Smith back on a short-term contract in 2013, however, and later that year the combative loose-forward Smith returned to Australia's Test team to face the touring British and Irish Lions.

While Smith is ready to champion the cause of his former Wallabies team-mates for a Test recall, he was less forthcoming on his own situation.

"Look I think it's great for players like Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell who qualify," said Smith.

"They've played particularly well for Toulon this year, highlighted in the fact they won the Champions Cup against Clermont.

"So I think those two are very close to getting a recall.

"As I said earlier it's a good opportunity for those two who meet the requirements and the criteria."

Nathan Hines replaced the injured George Whitelock on the Barbarians' bench on Wednesday, with All Blacks star Joe Rokocoko leading a stellar cast in the world-famous invitational outfit.

Ulster's Ruan Pienaar claimed the scrum-half shirt, while Leinster's retiring flanker Shane Jennings would pack down at blindside.

Buoyed to be on Barbarians duty once more, Smith said he was also excited about his impending move to Wasps.

"It is a short build-up with the BaaBaas, but communication within the group and latching onto mannerisms in play is key," said Smith.

"The boys have had a good experience so far and we're hoping to cap that off with a strong performance.

"It will be a new experience for me playing in the Premiership.

"I'm looking forward to that, playing a different style, and being managed by Dai Young and to work with players of the calibre of Nathan Hughes, Ashley Jones, James Haskell, Jimmy Gopperth and more.

"There are some fantastic names there, so I want to be available to help.

"Wasps have big ambitions for the next few years and that's very appealing."

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