Aussie Smith looks to lay down early marker

Munster signing Andrew Smith has an eye for an opportunity and with midfield vacancies up for grabs this season the former Brumbies centre is looking to make a speedy impression.

Aussie Smith looks to lay down early marker

Which is why just three weeks after touching down in the province from Canberra, the 29-year-old Australian will be looking to hit the ground running when he makes his Munster debut in Friday night’s pre-season SEAT Challenge against London Irish at the Waterford Regional Sports Centre.

Set to make his debut alongside fellow new boy, No 8 Robin Copeland, as head coach Anthony Foley ramps up his preparations for the following weekend’s Pro12 opener at home to Edinburgh, Smith is hoping to stake an early claim to the No 13 jersey vacated by Casey Laulala.

And with James Downey’s summer exit to Glasgow opening up a contest at inside centre, the 6ft 4ins, 16st 5lbs Aussie certainly sees an opportunity.

“Yeah, I think so,” Smith told the Irish Examiner. “There’s been a bit of a turnover of players there so there’s a few positions open there in the centres.

“In saying that, there’s a lot of skilful players that can play all over the back line so I think that might be one of our strengths, where guys can fit in wherever in the back line.”

How Smith, on a one-year contract, fits into that back line will be keenly anticipated, not least by Munster attack and backs coach Brian Walsh.

“My impressions of him are very good,” Walsh said of Smith. “He’s a smashing guy, a great fit from a character point of view, a great work ethic. He’s low maintenance, a good athlete, his core skills are very strong and he’s only been here a short time. He seems to have a very good head on him, takes information on board very quickly, so everything has been positive but, like anything, we’ve got to get out and play and see how everything works in context and hopefully the start of that will be on Friday.”

Outside centre has been where Smith has played most of his rugby, although it was at inside centre that he featured for the Canberra-based Brumbies in their famous June 2013 victory over the British & Irish Lions.

Yet after 50 Super Rugby caps, the last of which came on May 31 in a victory over Tony McGahan’s Melbourne Rebels, the centre was itching for different pastures.

“I was looking forward to a new experience,” Smith said. “I’d been in Canberra with the Brumbies for a while and I did have a desire to experience European rugby at some stage. When the opportunity came up to go to Munster there was definitely no other consideration. I was more than happy and very excited go forward with this opportunity. I’ve had a bit of time off, which was good because we had a long season and we could get away from rugby for a bit. I’m in good nick, I’m injury-free and feeling refreshed. Now I’m just looking forward to playing games and getting stuck back in to rugby.”

Three weeks after landing in Cork with his partner and new baby, Smith’s chance will come as Munster look to field a stronger side against London Irish than the inexperienced 15 which fell 45-8 to a full-strength Gloucester at Kingsholm last Saturday.

Speaking after training at CIT yesterday, Smith said: “I haven’t played for a few weeks now so it will be good to get back into it before the season starts and get some match fitness.

“It’s definitely flown by since I arrived. I’ve done a lot in those three weeks and I’m learning every day. New things are popping up every day that I’m having to adjust to but that’s all part of it and it’s good, I’m enjoying it.”

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