George Smith: Barbarians are what rugby’s all about

Australian great George Smith will rekindle his passion for the Barbarians a match against Ireland this month.

The Wallabies most-capped back row forward appeared in 111 Tests – including a World Cup final and the series against the British & Irish Lions in 2001 and 2013.

He also featured in a golden spell for the Barbarians – the famous invitation club celebrating its 125th anniversary this year – in five appearances from 2009 to 2011.

The Barbarians won four of those matches, beating New Zealand (25-18) for the first time since the iconic 1973 encounter as well as seeing off Ireland (29-23), England (38-32) and Wales (31-28).

Smith scored a try on the club’s last visit to Thomond Park in 2010 and returns there in the squad coached by Robbie Deans on Thursday, May 28.

The players involved this time round are a multinational cast that includes New Zealand great Joe Rokocoko, Wales’s Adam Jones and Alex Cuthbert, and representatives from half-a-dozen other countries including Argentina’s Tomas Cubelli, South Africa’s Gio Aplon, Uruguay’s Rodrigo Capo Ortega and Japan’s Ryu Koliniasi Holani,

“I’ve been very fortunate to be involved several times and on each occasion it’s always been great – these are players you admire from afar and you get the opportunity to play alongside them,” said Smith.

“You go out on the training paddock and get to see so many great players, their ability, their skills and how talented they are. You see the array of skills and strength and you get an appreciation of what they’re really like.

“I remember playing with Bryan Habana who has the ability to take great intercepts. I remember him running one back 60 metres [against New Zealand]. Having that in your side releases the pressure you face.

“I remember being captain for the Wallabies against the Barbarians and seeing how much fun they were having on the field. You look over and see them enjoying each others’ company at Wembley, for instance, and that’s what rugby’s all about.”

“I’ve worked with Robbie Deans before and enjoyed working with him as a coach so it’ll be good to reconnect with him in new times.

“I know the likes of Joe Rokocoko pretty well from the Top 14. Adam Jones looks like he’ll be enjoying himself with us and he’s a very respected, powerful guy too.”

Tickets for the Ireland v Barbarians match at Thomond Park on 28 May are priced from €30 and family (1 adult & 1 junior) terrace packs from €25. Get them here.