Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell are “very close to getting a recall” for Australia’s rugby World Cup campaign, according to former Wallabies skipper George Smith.
Smith, Australia’s second most-capped forward behind Nathan Sharpe, is considered less likely to break back into Michael Cheika’s squad but believes his fellow European-based Australians are well-placed to pull on the famous jersey once again.
Australia have relaxed their selection policy to consider overseas-based players for the first time, but only those with 60 or more caps.
Smith more than qualifies owing to his startling 111-Test career but the 34-year-old may not squeeze into Cheika’s plans.
“I think the Australia Rugby Union have shown some good forward-thinking decisions there with the new criteria to come in,” Smith told PA.
“To play 60 Test matches is not an easy challenge to achieve in Australia.
“And to have the long service as Wallabies who do meet that criteria I think it’s great they are rewarded with an opportunity to play overseas but also keep that connection with the Wallabies.”
Giteau and Mitchell have helped Toulon to a third-straight European crown this season, and could well now be primed to end their Wallabies exile.
Giteau has not featured for Australia since being dropped by then-Wallabies boss Robbie Deans for the 2011 World Cup.
That move prompted his Toulon switch, but after four years in the wilderness he could be brought back into the fold.
Mitchell joined the French powerhouse in 2013, well aware his Test career would be up in smoke, but now he too is back in consideration.
Smith retired from Test rugby in 2010 and signed for Toulon before embarking on a two-year stint in Japan.
The Brumbies signed Smith back on a short-term contract in 2013, however, and later that year the combative flanker returned to Australia’s Test team to face the touring British and Irish Lions.
While Smith is ready to champion the cause of his former Wallabies teammates for a Test recall, he was less forthcoming on his own situation.
“Look I think it’s great for players like Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell who qualify,” said Smith.
“They’ve played particularly well for Toulon this year, highlighted in the fact they won the Champions Cup against Clermont.
“So I think those two are very close to getting a recall.”