Reds hopeful Smith won't call it quits

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

Reds coach Brad Thorn is playing down the severity of a back injury to George Smith, despite fears he could miss the entire 2018 Super Rugby season.

Smith has missed Suntory's practice matches played while the Top League has been on a five week break due to a back injury, with the star flanker now seeking specialist opinions in Australia.

The severity of the injury is not known, nor is the exact injury itself, but Thorn was hopeful it would not spell the end of Smith's illustrious career.

"He's just getting it checked out at the moment," Thorn said.

"He's getting a few opinions - which is the smart thing to do - and we will find out more about that.Smith has suffered a back injury in Japan. Photo: Getty Images"He's a real valued guy and hopefully there's a good result there."

Thorn played down talk of potential retirement, when pressed.

"He's trying to look at those opinions and he's keen to play footy," he said.

"I don't think he's thinking about that sort of thing at the moment.

"I think he was playing a game or training, felt something, played on and I guess when you're aware there is a niggle or something you get it checked and something needed to be done about it.

'It's just whether or not it's a long term thing that puts him out or if it's a shorter term thing."

On a more positive note, Thorn was glowing when asked about the inclusion of long time mentor Paul Carozza in the Reds' coaching staff.Brad Thorn is excited to have Paul Carozza on board at Ballymore. Photo: QRU MediaCarozza will take charge of Queensland's attack, with Tony McGahan to run the defence.

"Stoked about Paul being on board," Thorn said.

"I've obviously worked with him a lot over the last two years and he has brought through a lot of talent to Queensland over a long period of time.

"He's been involved for 18-odd years, everyone has a high opinion of him, I have a massive opinion of him and I enjoy the U20s and NRC this year and am looking forward to working with him again."Hamish Stewart may push Quade Cooper for the starting flyhalf gig. Photo: Rugby Australia MediaThorn also preached the competitive nature of the squad in the fight for starting spots, with young guns such as Hamish Stewart given every chance to push veterans like Quade Cooper, who has previously had a mortgage on the starting flyhalf jersey.

"It's a competitive environment so game on, as far as I'm concerned," Thorn said when asked if Stewart could squeeze Cooper out.

"That's all I've ever known - people have said I'm not an experienced coach but what I am experienced in is playing professional footy and I've been doing that for a long time.

"I love to compete, I love the competitive environment and that's what it is.

"I never got picked because I was a nice guy, you've got to earn the right and compete for a spot - it's healthy."