BRIAN SMITH HAS certainly lived in interesting times.
The London Irish coach made his sporting name as a fly-half for Queensland Reds and Australia, featuring for the Wallabies in the third-place playoff in the 1987 World Cup.
Having played against Ireland in June 1987, Smith then switched allegiances and, thanks to a pseudo-Irish grandmother, to play for us nine times over three years.
Smith was capped more times for Ireland than his native Australia [six] and relegated Ralph Keyes and Michael Bradley to replacements’ roles.
He was in line for a starting role at the 1991 World Cup before he switched codes and took up rugby league in his homeland.
Brian Smith, as a Wallaby, avoids Ireland’s Michael Bradley. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)
He began is coaching career in Japan with Ricoh Rugby Club before making waves as an attack-minded coach with the ACT Brumbies and London Irish.
Smith was appointed England backs coach by Martin Johnson but his reputation suffered after a leaked player survey.
The 46-year-old is back at London Irish as Director of Rugby but the Exiles are precariously placed at 11th in the Premiership with just two wins from 10 matches.
The fightback starts… now
Smith’s side welcome fourth-place Leicester Tigers, including Niall Morris and Geordan Murphy, to the Madejski Stadium on Saturday, 22 December.
He said, “It will be great to be playing back at the Madejski in front of our home crowd tomorrow.
Leicester has been the benchmark team in the Aviva Premiership for a long time now and they’ll give us a thorough examination.
“In saying that we don’t fear any team in this league and the boys are itching to play the Tigers.”
Ian Humphreys has been named at out-half for Irish but Brian Blaney finds himself out of the matchday squad.
The Exiles will then play Conor O’Shea’s Harlequins in front of an expected crowd of 80,000 at Twickenham on Saturday, 29 December.
Smith told the RFU podcast, “Whenever you play a local rival there is always a bit of extra spice as the supporters and players go way back, and there’s all sort of injustices that go back over time.
“You have two teams that want to play an attacking brand of rugby. We have the same philosophy in believing we can win games of rugby by playing expansively with kick, chase.”
He added, “We believe we can go toe-to-toe with the big boys.”
Elsewhere in the Premiership
Worcester Warriors have named Neil Best at blindside flanker and John Andress on the bench for their home tie with struggling London Welsh.
Exeter Chiefs should feature Tom Hayes, Gareth Steenson and Ian Whitten in their away clash with Gloucester, and winger Shane Monahan, on Saturday.
Mark McCall’s Saracens take on a Bath side that have been without the services of former Ulster player Ryan Caldwell for the majority of the season.
O’Shea will hope his Quins team can defeat third-place Northampton Saints and remain top of the league pile.
The final match of the weekend will see rock-bottom Sale Sharks, with Tony Buckley and Cillian Willis on the playing staff, at Adams Park to take on London Wasps.