Sacking over taxi incident does not define me – Wallaby great Smith

Former Australia flanker George Smith says his sacking by Japanese club Suntory will not define him.

The Wallaby great, 38, spent 20 days in a Japanese prison after an incident with a taxi driver on 31 December 2017, before being released without charge.

He returned to Queensland Reds for the Super Rugby season and has now joined Bristol on a six-month deal.

“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 won 111 Australia caps, told BBC Radio 5 live: “An incident happened, but there was undue publicity around it.

“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.”

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‘I won’t be a passenger’

Despite his age, Smith has vowed to make an impression at Ashton Gate as Bristol look to stay in the top flight.

In his last spell in the Premiership, Smith was highly influential for Wasps, scooping a host of individual awards and mentoring the younger generation in Coventry.

“It is important for an experienced player to mentor and pass on skills and experience,” Smith added.

“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 attributes his longevity to a good injury record, a result of experience and a sharp rugby brain.

“I have been very fortunate I haven’t had too many serious injuries. I find myself in situations on the field where I feel I can anticipate out of them,” he explained.

“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.”

No contact from Jones

Smith’s relationship with England head coach Eddie Jones goes back two decades to their time at the Brumbies in Australia, and the player was drafted into camp in 2016 as a breakdown consultant.

“We are still in touch, but I haven’t spoken to him recently. I regard Eddie very highly, and he has been very influential in my career as a rugby player and as a person.

“He is still a mentor of mine, but I haven’t been asked [to go into camp again].

“I do have an interest in coaching. I don’t know if I could deal with 40-odd different personalities at one time, but I do have an interest in regards to helping around that contact and breakdown area.”

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