Twickenham - George Smith admits he has a
"massive" challenge on his hands as he prepares for the English
Premiership season with new side Bristol after nearly two decades at the top of
The 38-year-old back-row forward, a member of the Australian
side that lost the 2003 World Cup final to England, believes his new team can
hold their own among the elite after winning promotion last season.
Smith, who played a season with Wasps and was complimented
on his mentoring skills with the younger players, says he would not have
accepted the offer from Bristol if he felt he could no longer contribute at the
"It is not me prolonging my career, it is just me
accepting new challenges and this, the Premiership, is a massive one," he
told AFP at the Premiership launch at Twickenham this week.
"I can't avoid the fact I am 38, the wrinkles tell that
story. But it is an exciting time to be part of a newly promoted team with new
players coming in and learning fresh ideas from the coaches.
"It (the Premiership) is such a demanding competition
but we have a lot of belief in the squad and we have worked extremely hard
pre-season on both our physical and mental states."
Smith, who won 111 Test caps, said the chance to work with
Bristol's head coach Pat Lam had been a crucial factor in signing up.
"I respect how Pat Lam has done things," said
Smith of the former Samoa international.
"He turned (Irish province) Connacht from being a good
team into a great team, winning the Pro12 (in 2016), which was a fantastic
achievement. He has history as a coach and I wanted to be part of that."
Smith is especially excited to be playing with former All
Black Charles Piutau.
The 26-year-old - who Smith knows well from their Wasps days
in 2015-16 - is the marquee signing financed by locally born billionaire Steve
Lansdown's money although others such as former Ireland flyhalf Ian Madigan
also bring a touch of experience and class to the squad.
"Charles is an enormous talent which I witnessed a few
years ago with Wasps," said Smith, whose Bristol side launch their
Premiership campaign against local rivals Bath on August 31.
"He is an enormous positive for world rugby. He has
such an array of skills and he has no ego about him. That is what I love about
him - he is a humble guy and gets on with it.
"Add the likes of Ian Madigan, young lock Joe Joyce and
centre Piers O'Connor and we have a team of players that complement each other.
"It is easy to say that at the start of a season
without any games played but I believe we have a very good side."
Smith, who remarks how his dreadlocks have been replaced by
"white hairs", says he does not have a specific moment he has enjoyed
above all others during his long career.
He prefers to categorise his career in blocks, including his
time with the Wallabies from 2000 to 2009 (he returned to play a single match
in 2013) and his time spent abroad.
As for how he would like to be remembered, he keeps it
"I would like to think that when I do retire I will be
remembered as someone who brought joy to the people and fans and earned the
respect of his rivals."