Smith to join Bristol

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

Reds backrower George Smith is going back to the UK, signing with Bristol for 2018-19.

Smith returned to Australia in 2017, after stints in Japan and the UK, to join the Reds and has been one of their best players in recent seasons.

There was speculation the 37-year-old was contemplating retirement, but it turns out he will spend another stint in England.

Smith has played 163 Super Rugby matches and has 111 Wallabies caps, one of the most-decorated Aussies of all time.

Bristol coach Pat Lam said on the team's website that Smith would bring invaluable qualities to the team.

“George [Smith] remains one of the most physically impressive and intelligent flankers in the world. His qualities are obvious: tremendous leadership, excellent decision making, dedication to the team and unrivalled experience," he said.

“His rugby understanding sets him apart and, even in the latter stages of his career, he’s still delivering fantastic performances at the highest level of Super Rugby.

"With Dan [Thomas] and Sam [Graham] sidelined with injury for the beginning of the season, Jake [Heenan] returning from long-term surgery and Jack [Lam] likely to be involved in the November internationals, George is an ideal addition to the squad to provide cover and experience for a physically demanding position."

Smith said he was looking forward to another mentoring role in his new team.

“I know Pat [Lam] well and I was massively impressed by the ambition of the Bristol Bears and what they are striving to achieve," he said.

"I’m looking forward to coming back to the Gallagher Premiership – a tough competition that I really enjoyed – and representing Bristol at Ashton Gate

“I’ll be able to pass on some advice to the younger guys in the squad as well and I’ll be giving my all to the cause during my time at the club.”

The Reds are understood to be supportive of Smith's decision, with a host of young backrowers taking a step up in the 2018 season.