He might be on Eddie Jones’ England coaching staff but new Queensland Reds recruit George Smith has declared his faith in Australia, predicting Michael Cheika will lead the Wallabies to victory in the three-Test series for the Cook Cup.
Wallaby legend Smith, who has played 111-Tests, will return to Australian rugby next year after signing a shock two-season deal with Queensland, and will likely move into a coaching role once his playing days are finally over – joining another ageless warrior, dual-code international Brad Thorn, in the Ballymore back rooms.
But the 35-year-old flanker has already undertaken something of an internship under Jones, helping the English side prepare for their tour by working as a breakdown consultant to ensure the likes of James Haskell are ready to tackle Australia’s world-class back-row.
Smith, however, says his heart is still with the green and gold and hailed the work Cheika has done with the national team since taking over at the helm.
“I think Michael Cheika’s done a fantastic job with the Wallabies,” Smith told the Australian Rugby Union’s website.
“History shows players perform for him because they enjoy being coached by him, and also working under him.
“He’s a fantastic leader and the players respond to that.”
Smith said England was “on a roll” after their Six Nations grand slam and strong win over Wales just prior to departing for Australia, and will present their old rivals with a stern challenge – but nothing more.
“I think Australia will win the series, my allegiances are with them and I do feel some of them played extremely well in Super Rugby, so hopefully that translates into their Test form,” Smith said.