By Ali Stokes
Bristol Bears has confirmed the signing of Wallaby legend George Smith, who has committed to the newly-promoted side on a six-month deal.
Formerly of Wasps, the Australian openside will bring over 100 Test caps worth of experience to Ashton Gate and will likely partner up with All Blacks backrow Steven Luatua and Samoan international Jack Lam.
Smith’s accolades include four consecutive Australian Super 14 Player of the Year awards between 2004 and 2008, voted Players Player of the season eight times within twelve years for the Brumbies and was voted the 2016 RPA Player’s Player of the season during his one year stint with Wasps.
Head coach Pat Lam said: “George 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.
“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.
“Wherever George has played in his career, he has consistently been the standout performer. The last time he played in the Premiership with Wasps, he scooped player of the season, supporters’ player of the season and Premiership players’ player. We know each other well and I’m confident he has all the characteristics to help our young players develop and contribute to our on-field success.”
He added: “I know Pat well and I was massively impressed by the ambition of the Bristol Bears and what they are striving to achieve. 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.”