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SYDNEY (AFP) – Experienced flanker George Smith has been recalled to the Wallabies for the deciding Test against the British and Irish Lions on Saturday, four years after his last international appearance.
The 32-year-old Smith is the sole survivor of Australia's last series against the Lions 12 years ago and comes in for Michael Hooper as the Wallabies seek to retain the Tom Richards Trophy.
Smith, who last played for Australia in the 33-12 win over Wales in Cardiff in 2009, is the only change to the starting team which levelled the three-match series with a 16-15 win over the Lions in Melbourne last weekend.
With 110 appearances, the forward is Australia's third-most capped player behind his former Brumbies and Wallabies captain George Gregan, who clocked up 139 Tests, and Nathan Sharpe with 116 caps.
Smith's opportunity to play again for the Wallabies came when he was loaned to his old ACT Brumbies team from Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath this season and impressed Wallabies coach Robbie Deans enough to earn a recall to international rugby.
"He's class, isn't he?" Deans said.
"To have achieved what George has throughout his career and return to play at the highest level after such a long break is a testament to the quality of the man, both as a person and as a player."
Smith's selection comes after the tourists' controversial axing of revered Irish centre Brian O'Driscoll -- their sole survivor from the last 2001 Australian series -- from their side for Saturday's third Test at the Sydney Olympic stadium.
O'Driscoll was expected to lead the Lions in the absence of injured tour leader Sam Warburton, but the Lions will now be captained by Welsh lock Alun Wyn Jones.
Hooper is relegated to the bench to make way for Smith after starting in the first two Tests of the series, while last year's Australia Under-20 captain, Flanker Liam Gill, is out after playing off the bench in the earlier Tests.
"The decision to go with George in no way reflects any dissatisfaction with the way either Michael or Liam have played," Deans said.
"But it has been a tough series -- the first two games have been rugged, especially at the breakdown, and we feel that the combination of experience and fresh legs that George brings is the right way to go for this week.
"His expertise in the contact zone, where timing, judgement and physicality is everything, is going to be critical.
"Being able to call on George allows us to lighten the load on Michael while retaining the ability to inject him into what is sure to be a fast-paced and highly physical contest."
Smith becomes the fourth Wallaby -- alongside Tony Miller, John Thornett and Peter Johnson -- to have played the Lions across two separate tours, with his predecessors all having featured against the Lions in 1959 and 1967.
Rugged Western Force loose forward Ben McCalman was brought into the replacements at the expense of centre Rob Horne, leaving Australia with a 6-2 forwards-backs split for what is expected to be another torrid 80-minute battle with the Lions.
Scrum-half Nick Phipps and uncapped fullback Jesse Mogg are Australia's only backline options on the bench.
Australia (15-1) - Kurtley Beale; Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Leali'ifano, Joe Tomane; James O'Connor, Will Genia; Wycliff Palu, George Smith, Ben Mowen; James Horwill (capt), Kane Douglas; Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson.
Replacements: Saia Fainga'a, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper, Nick Phipps, Jesse Mogg.