After Wallabies legend George Smith announced his retirement from rugby, tributes have poured in on social media from around the world.
The 38-year-old is retiring after having one of the most varied and decorated careers in recent times. He made his Test debut in 2000 and was still going strong 19 years later with the Bristol Bears this season.
However, it is not just the longevity of his career that makes him such a special player, but his expertise. In terms of the greatest flankers this century, if not in history, many would rank the 111-cap Smith up there with Richie McCaw.
Not only did he win Super Rugby twice with the Brumbies during his 12 years with them, but he was the team’s Player of the Year 10 times, as well as being Super Rugby Player of the Year on three occasions.
In recent years, he has moved from club to club across the world, including Toulon, Suntory Sungoliath, Stade Francais, Lyon, Wasps, the Reds and Bristol. However, even then, he earned the RPA’s Players’ Player of the Year in 2015 at Wasps and the Reds Player of the Year in 2017.
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As expected, tributes have flooded in from players and pundits across the game, who would have played with or against him during his career. He has invariably been described as one of the greats of the game, as he has made an impression on all he has shared a field with. This is what has been said:
Absolute legend…? https://t.co/ckstsw1OZl
— Martyn Williams (@martynewilliams) May 21, 2019
George Smith!! The great man retires from rugby. I never thought this day would come… One of the genuine greats that I was fortunate to play with.. He’s one bloke I know will enjoy retirement #Enjoyment pic.twitter.com/r9dqz8l6yw
— Matt Giteau ?? (@giteau_rugby) May 21, 2019
George Smith – One of Rugby’s all time greats!! Had the honour of playing my last ever professional rugby match with him for the barbarians_fc a few years back. What a week!!! Enjoy retirement pal ? https://t.co/JrC46zZW3B
— ugo monye (@ugomonye) May 21, 2019
I’ve often been asked to name the best ‘all round’ player I’ve called .. and George Smith is my No 1. He was so talented and so consistent. You always knew he would be giving 100%. All the best in retirement George.@FOXRUGBY pic.twitter.com/tlbBGjtEG7
— Greg Clark (@greg_clarkie) May 21, 2019
A true legend. One of the very best to have played the sport. Ever. ?????? https://t.co/VyHy7yJRkI
— Daniel Leo (@danleo82) May 21, 2019
George Smith, I touched him once. One of the greats.
— Jim Hamilton #DMWJ (@jimhamilton4) May 21, 2019
— Kurtley Beale (@kurtley_beale) May 21, 2019
Probably the best player I’ve ever played with. George Smith did everything & was one of those guys who was world class at all aspects of his game. Can’t imagine what a mess his body is in. Feet up lad. Privilege to play alongside you @RCTofficiel pic.twitter.com/mK1S0fVk9B
— Tom May (@TomMay1) May 21, 2019
Well the legend is finally calling it a day. What a honour to have played with and against one of the greats. (Even though he ended me in that pic ?) George you are the man. ?????? pic.twitter.com/TfB5ZL58UF
— Jordan Crane (@JordanCrane86) May 21, 2019
In Test rugby, Smith was also the youngest player to reach 100 caps in 2009, four days after turning 29. He soon retired from international rugby with 110 caps to his name, before making a comeback in 2013 against the British and Irish Lions. This also meant that he played in both the 2001 and the 2013 Lions series, and has continued playing six years after that.
After retiring at such a young age, questions will always be asked how many caps he could have won for the Wallabies, but there is still no denying the impact that he made on world rugby. He now will move on to a coaching role with his former club Suntory Sungoliath after one of rugby’s greatest careers.
WATCH: Part two of the RugbyPass Legends interview with Wallaby winger Drew Mitchell
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