Smith ruled out of his own Super farewell
GEORGE Smith will miss his own farewell party with the decision taken not to risk his knee in Friday night's Queensland Reds match.
Fans, former teammates and admirers worldwide will have to make do with all the highlights he has squeezed into the 164 Super Rugby matches he did play.
The Wallabies great, who turns 38 on Saturday, had been eager to play but for reasons other than the farewell focus.
As a part of the Reds' team embarrassed 63-28 by Japan's Sunwolves in Tokyo in May, the indomitable flanker had hoped to be part of a redemption mission.
Instead, the June 29 clash against the Blues in Auckland will go down as his finale in Super Rugby because he tweaked his knee when twisted awkwardly in a pick-and-drive play that night.
"It's unfortunate that George doesn't get an opportunity to play in the Reds' jersey one final time but we thought it was in his best interests to listen to his body and sit this one out," Reds coach Brad Thorn said.
"He has given plenty to us and to Australian Rugby as a whole and we wish him all the best with the rest of his career."
Smith's decision to sit this one out also takes into account that he is soon to link with English club Bristol.
He had flagged his 50-50 status with injury earlier in the week.
"I'm not really that emotional when it comes to farewells and stuff," Smith said.
"It's one game for me and I've got a lot of good memories in Australian rugby.
"The mind is a lot stronger than the body just now but I am happy with the way the body has come back from the back surgery before this season.
"It's one of the reasons I feel like I'm up for the new challenge at Bristol because I feel I have played some good footy this season.
"I've really enjoyed my Reds time with the coaches, a lot of young guys coming through for debuts and the opportunity to train and play at this level again."
Liam Wright will wear the No.7 jersey instead, a succession plan that Smith is delighted with because he rates the youngster " a natural flanker with the way he reads the game" and for his fluid moves on the field.
In another key change, livewire Tate McDermott has been selected for his first run-on game at halfback ahead of Moses Sorovi.
In the pack, Lukhan Tui starts at lock which means no spot for Kane Douglas.
It's a disappointment that Douglas doesn't get his own chance to farewell Super Rugby in this match because he's off to French club Bordeaux.
"We've made a couple of changes that probably reflect the depth in the squad and also point a bit to the future," Thorn said.
"Lukhan Tui returns to the starting side at lock beside Izack Rodda and Angus Blyth gets his first opportunity this week (as a reserve).
"Angus has been working away, waiting to get a taste at this level. He's one to watch for the future.
"Kane Douglas has done a great job for us this season, but with him moving overseas, we felt we should give opportunities to younger players.
"With Tate McDermott and Moses Sorovi, they're both exciting young players with plenty to offer. This is Tate's first opportunity in the starting side and we know Moses will provide some spark off the bench."
Queensland Reds team to play Sunwolves (7.45pm, Friday, July 13)
1. JP Smith, 2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3. Taniela Tupou, 4. Izack Rodda, 5. Lukhan Tui, 6. Caleb Timu, 7. Liam Wright, 8. Scott Higginbotham (c), 9. Tate McDermott, 10. Hamish Stewart, 11. Eto Nabuli, 12. Duncan Paia'aua, 13. Jordan Petaia, 14. Filipo Daugunu, 15. Jono Lance. Reserves: 16. Alex Mafi, 17. Harry Hoopert, 18. Ruan Smith, 19. Angus Blyth, 20. Angus Scott-Young, 21. Adam Korczyk, 22. Moses Sorovi, 23. Teti Tela.