AUSTRALIA flanker George Smith has announced his retirement from international rugby at the age of 29.
The Brumbies star has won 110 caps for his country – one of only four Wallabies, and 10 players in total, to reach three figures – since his debut against France in 2000, scoring nine tries in that time and captaining the side on seven occasions.
But he has now requested an early end to his Australian Rugby Union contract to explore other options and will be released by club and country when the Super 14 season finishes at the end of May – a year ahead of the scheduled conclusion of his deal, which was to run until the 2011 World Cup.
Smith said: “Throughout these 10 years I have always held a deep respect and honour for the Wallabies jersey and for what it means to be a Wallaby. I have considered it a privilege to wear the gold jersey.
“The decision to retire from Test rugby has been a very difficult one. Although I believe that I could play competitive rugby at the highest level and contribute to the Wallabies for many years to come, I know in my heart that this is the right time to step aside.
“I believe the Wallabies have created the right balance between providing opportunity for the outstanding young talent that is within Australian rugby and also having the knowledge and experience in senior players to bring out their very best. I believe that the fruits of this hard work will be seen in the months and years ahead, most importantly at the 2011 World Cup.
“I believe that now is the time for me to give back to my family, to be able to spend more quality time with my wife and young children. It has become increasingly difficult for me to spend large periods of time away from home and my family and this is something that I would like to change.”
Smith plans to look for a club outside of Australia: “I would like the opportunity to experience a different environment and culture together as a family unit whilst still playing competitive rugby. I feel I owe this opportunity to my family.”
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