Smith won't rush a return for Reds swansong

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

George Smith won't force a return from a knee injury on Friday, even if it means he misses out on an Australian farewell.

The legendary Reds flanker was a late withdrawal from Queensland's win over the Rebels on Friday and ahead of what will almost certainly be his final game on Australian soil, the 37-year-old is wary of pushing his body too hard.

"The knee is progressing well but I won't know up until the later part of this week," Smith said when asked if he will play on Friday.

"I'm doing everything I can to get back onto the field.

"I really want to play this last game - especially against the Sunwolves - we were humbled by them early in the year so I'm doing everything I can to get back on the field."

Smith suffered a knock in the Reds' loss to the Blues a fortnight ago and has a contract with Bristol to think about, with coach Brad Thorn also indicating he would "take care" of the star openside if he was required to do so.

Smith has been a crowd drawing star for the Reds. Photo: Getty Images"It's highly likely that it is my last professional game here in Australia but it's not emotional - I'm not really that emotional when it comes to farewell or that sort of stuff," he said.

"It's a game I want to be a part of but I have to really listen to my body and see how it is treating me - it has treated me really well over the years.

"Will it be sad... it's one game for me - but to participate in this game with a lot of players who will be departing would be nice but I have a lot of good memories."

Smith never entered negotiations on a contract that would keep him at Ballymore, eager to hand the keys over to Queensland's next crop of flankers.

"We have so many exciting players coming through," Smith said.

"Liam Wright is a fantastic young talent - Queensland should do all they can to keep him here.

"He's a person that loves the place and I feel he has a lot of passion around the group and he is a good addition to the place.Smith won the Pilecki Medal in his first season at Ballymore. Photo: Getty Images"Caleb Timu, Adam Korczyk, Scott Higginbotham, we've got a number of backrowers who can fill any void that I have left - which I don't think will be that great.

"I never thought once to try and renegotiate a deal here."

It's Wright in particular who has caught Smith's eye - a star of the 2017 Junior Wallabies who has already displayed the pilfering nous required to thrive at Super Rugby and eventually, Test level.

"He just looks like a natural footballer, he reads situations well and moves around the park quite fluidly," Smith said.

"He's able to pick up things very quickly and has pretty good vision out there on the field.

"I'd like him to put a couple more kgs and he would be a lot stronger in the breakdown area but his mobility and flexibility in the hips - he's able to get over the ball and effect turnovers."

Once the 2018-19 season is in the books Smith will make another call as to whether he will play on, though working as a breakdown coaching consultant is on his radar.

"I have an interest in doing specific coaching or consulting around the contact and breakdown area," he said.

"I guess I draw on my experience as a player and how I've got in my position - every player is different in their body makeup so it's about bringing their strengths and working those strengths compared to strengths that I would have as a flanker and a person playing rugby."

The Reds host the Sunwolves in their final Super Rugby match of the season on Friday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS and RUGBY.com.au radio.