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Young hopes Smith sticks around

Published 03/07/2015

George Smith could play for Australia at the World Cup
George Smith could play for Australia at the World Cup

Wasps were unaware George Smith could be involved in the World Cup when signing the Australian great, but would make no attempt to persuade him to reject a call-up.

The Wallabies have omitted Smith from their training squad for the Rugby Championship but coach Michael Cheika revealed on Thursday that the 34-year-old may yet be involved in England 2015.

Injuries to opensides Michael Hooper and David Pocock would enable Smith to add to his 111 caps, potentially forcing him to miss Wasps' Premiership fixtures against Harlequins, Bath and Leicester.

The development has come as a surprise to Wasps, who announced his signing on a one-year contract from Lyon in May, but director of rugby Dai Young insists his appearance at a third World Cup would have his blessing.

"When we signed him that wasn't part of the deal, so they've changed the goalposts. We didn't know that we might lose him for the start of the season," Young said.

"But being an ex-player, I wouldn't want to stop someone playing at a World Cup. Even if that wasn't my mindset, it is clearly stated you can't stop a player from playing international rugby.

"He's on stand-by so we're keeping our fingers crossed that nobody gets injured, but George has got half an eye on it because it would be an unexpected bonus for him.

"If he does go to the World Cup, it's something we'd deal with. He would certainly go with my blessing."

Even if the worst case scenario unfolds and Smith misses the start of Wasps' first full season at the Ricoh Arena, Young views the arrival of a player he coached twice when at the helm of the Barbarians as a major coup.

"I watched every game he played for Lyon last season and nine times out of 10 he was by far the best player on the field. Playing in a struggling team, he was outstanding," Young said.

"He would have had much better financial opportunities with some of the French teams and Japanese opportunities, but this is a league he hasn't played in and he wanted to make sure he doesn't die wondering."

Scrum-half Joe Simpson has seen more of Smith since his arrival at the club's training ground in Acton than most of his Wasps team-mates as he nears the end of his rehabilitation from the knee injury forcing him to miss England's World Cup training camp.

Simpson is helping Smith, whose last Test appearance against the British and Irish Lions in 2013 was overshadowed by a high-profile concussion incident, find schools for his children in west London.

"I've only been star-struck three times in my life - Jonny Wilkinson, Serge Betsen and now George Smith," Simpson said.

"I was born in Australia and grew up supporting them until I played for England at age group level and Smith was already a legend of the game at that stage.

"I spoke to a couple of the boys who played with him in Australia, and they said he was phenomenal, just ridiculous."

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