By George, Smith gets it

Flanker George Smith will captain the Wallabies on their end-of-year tour.

Smith replaces George Gregan, who has been rested for the trip.

The appointment was confirmed by Wallaby coach John Connolly in his column for the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday.

“George Smith will become captain of Australia for the first time on Thursday morning (Sydney time),” wote Connolly. “We will announce our team tomorrow for the first spring tour match, against Swansea Ospreys, and George will lead some experienced players and others making their first appearance on a Wallabies tour.

“This match gives us the first opportunity to look at some of the players who will form the nucleus of the Wallabies in years to come.”

Connolly also used the column to explain his selection policy for the tour.

“In the forwards, we will see the first appearance of exciting back-rower Hugh McMeniman from a lengthy injury lay-off, and James Horwill steps out for the first time to partner Al Campbell.

“David Lyons will make a return from a back injury with a goal to push for a Test spot later in the tour. Tatafu-Polota Nau will get an opportunity to start at hooker and the talented young Stephen Moore will get some time off the bench.

“We have depth in the hooking position but it is experience that counts in international competition.

“In the backs we will see a new centre combination of Brumbies Gene Fairbanks and Adam Ashley-Cooper. They were the form centres in the Australian Provincial Championship and hope to make significant progress through the tour.

“Morgan Turinui will also make his return, which is likely to be on the wing. He will get plenty of opportunity at his more favoured centre position as the tour goes on.

“Morgan recognises he has an opportunity on this tour to force his way back into the Test team. Injuries to Drew Mitchell and Stirling Mortlock have forced the decision to have Morgan play on the wing.

“A positional change like this reminds me of the old-fashioned tours on which players were often asked to play out of position – a situation many of the modern rugby players are not used to.

“We are expecting good performances from Morgan, and it is worth remembering world-class centres Jason Little and Daniel Herbert were more than successful on the wing when the need arose.

“We will get a chance to see Cameron Shepherd at fullback, where he showed so much promise with the Western Force in the Super 14.”