‘I’ve never seen a guy as gifted in all facets of the game’
Boasting 95 caps for Ireland, five test caps for the British and Irish Lions and over 200 appearances for Leinster, it’s safe to say that Jamie Heaslip has come up against his fair share of talented rugby players.
The number eight was a stalwart for both his club and country, getting the better of the opposition’s back rowers more often than not.
However, the Kildare man admitted that former Wallaby George Smith, who played professional rugby until he was 38 years old, was the one player he never liked to come up against.
“The person I actually feared most in the back row was actually George Smith. I didn’t get to play against him a whole lot but, when I did, it hurt.
“I’ve never seen a guy as gifted in all facets of the game. His ability to turn over the ball, his ability to get around the field, his distribution and his skills; and he was a good bloke off the field too.
“He was always one guy I didn’t like going up against but I did enjoy the challenge. He was definitely top of the list for me,” Heaslip told BT Sport’s Rugby Tonight.
George Smith’s career highlights
Smith had an illustrious international career with Australia, winning 111 caps over a 13-year span for his country and picked up two Super Rugby titles with the Brumbies.
The fearsome flanker was far from done with rugby after ending his international career, playing for Toulon, Stade Francais and Lyon in the Top 14, Wasps and Bristol in the Premiership and turning out for Suntory Sungoliath in Japan’s Top League.
The Wallaby legend did return to Australia near the tail end of his career, playing for the Queensland Reds in the 2017 and 2018 seasons of Super Rugby, before one last season of professional rugby with Bristol.
While Smith never managed to win the Rugby World Cup with the Wallabies, he is regarded as one of the best Australians to ever play the game.