Suntory sacking will not be how I am remembered, says Aussie Smith

George Smith (Getty)
George Smith (Getty)

London - Australian rugby legend George Smith says the manner of his departure from Japanese side Suntory earlier this year will not be how he is remembered when he finally retires.

The 38-year-old, capped 111 times, was sacked by Suntory in February after spending almost three weeks in jail following an incident with a taxi driver - allegedly for punching him twice over a non-payment of a $90 fare -- but did not face charges over it.

Suntory, though, described the incident as grave and issued an apology.

Smith, who was an integral member of the Wallabies side that agonisingly lost at home to England in extra time in the 2003 World Cup final, told the BBC he held no bitterness towards Suntory for axing him.

"I understand why I was let go by Suntory, and I understand my position as someone in the spotlight," he said.

"But that doesn't define who I am as a rugby player or who I am as a person."

Smith, who played for 10 years for Super Rugby outfit ACT Brumbies, says lessons were learned from the episode.

"An incident happened, but there was undue publicity around it," said Smith, who for years stood out with his dreadlocks.

"I have learned a lot from that, but there was no case to be answered, no conviction and no legal ramifications.

"I hadn't had any previous incidents like this, but I was happy to let it be and continue my career elsewhere."

Smith is now with English Premiership new boys Bristol Bears and has become something of a globetrotter since he turned 30. He spent two spells with Suntory, played for three different clubs in France and also for Wasps in England.

He says the aim during his six-month contract with the Bears is to perform a similar role to what he did at Wasps in setting an example on the pitch while bringing on the younger players too.

"It is important for an experienced player to mentor and pass on skills and experience," said Smith.

"But also I need to be the best player I can be on the field. I don't want to be a passenger in any team. I need to be a person who is striving to be the best in the team."

Smith, who describes England head coach Eddie Jones as a mentor and played under him both for the Wallabies and the Brumbies, says his extraordinarily lengthy career is down to his intelligence on the pitch.

"I find myself in situations on the field where I feel I can anticipate out of them," he said.

"I don't put myself in unnecessary spots that would put me in a high percentage (chance) of getting injured.

"My recovery process has also changed over the years, and I understand my body a bit better than I used to."

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