George Smith (Australia)
World Rugby Hall of Fame – Inductee No.164
Plucked from relative obscurity to make his test debut as a 20-year-old in November 2000, George Smith would go on to become arguably rugby’s first openside superstar. His first test ended in an 18-13 victory against France at the Stade de France and Smith’s maiden year on the international stage would also include a series win against the British and Irish Lions and a Tri Nations title.
In 2003, having become a mainstay of the Wallabies back-row, Smith made his Rugby World Cup debut as Australia beat Argentina 24-8 in Sydney. He would go on to score his first tournament try during a 90-8 defeat of Romania, while his second proved crucial to a narrow 17-16 win against Ireland.
Victory sent the hosts through to the quarter-finals as Pool A winners and subsequent defeats of Scotland and New Zealand secured their passage to the final. Smith played all 100 minutes of the showpiece match, but it would end in heartbreak as Jonny Wilkinson’s late drop goal sealed a 20-17 victory for England.
During his second Rugby World Cup at France 2007, Smith became the 75th player to captain the Wallabies when he led the team out for a 37-6 defeat of Canada in Bordeaux, scoring one of his side’s six tries.
Smith would go on to captain Australia a further six times, winning three and losing three. He became a test centurion in July 2009, wearing the number seven jersey in a 22-16 defeat by New Zealand at Eden Park, but it looked as though he had made his 110th and final Wallabies appearance in November of that year after he announced his international retirement in February 2010. However, he made a remarkable return in 2013 when he was selected to start the deciding test of the Lions series. Unfortunately for Smith, the match ended in a 41-16 defeat.
Smith enjoyed a stellar club career with the ACT Brumbies – where he won two John Eales Medals and four Super Rugby Player of the Year awards – Toulon, Suntory Sungoliath, Stade Français, Lyon, Wasps, the Queensland Reds and Bristol. He hung up his boots in 2019 with his place as one of the greats of the modern game firmly assured.