Matt Smith: A Career Overview As Flanker Announces His Retirement

Yesterday afternoon Matt Smith announced his retirement from rugby union at just 23. Here, Erin McRitchie looks at all the information from the announcement and takes a look back at some of the defining moments from Smith’s six-year long professional career.

Smith has made the hard decision to retire having been afforded time for reflection in lockdown. (Photo: Scottish Rugby twitter)

Scottish Rugby academy graduate Matt Smith announced yesterday that, at the age of 23, he would be permanently stepping away from rugby union.

The announcement follows confirmation that Glasgow Warriors would be releasing Smith when he reached the end of his current contract this summer, having been loaned to Edinburgh half way through the 2019/20 season.

Breaking the news on social media platforms Twitter and Instagram, Smith admitted the decision to walk away from the professional game was “one if the hardest things I have had to do in my life.”

Most responses have expressed surprise at Smith’s announcement, with Scottish journalist Jamie Lyall tweeting, “A few years ago, Matt Smith was a shining light in a Scotland U20 team that featured [Scott] Cummings, [Adam] Hastings, [Jamie] Ritchie, [Blair] Kinghorn and [Rory] Hutchinson. Desperately sad to see him retire so young, with such obvious talent.”

The young flanker explained that current circumstances of lockdown enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic had provided him time for reflection. And whilst rugby provided him a lot of joy, unfortunately for Smith, “rugby is no longer enjoyable” and “it had become a chore to get up for training.”

The former Stirling County youth player developed his rugby craft in the Scottish Rugby academy – representing his country at under 20s level – before graduating and becoming a contracted member of the Glasgow Warriors squad.

The announcement yesterday brings to an end a six-year involvement with Glasgow Warriors and follows just 17 months after the back-rower was called up to Gregor Townsend’s 2019 Six Nations Scotland training squad.

Smith felt he had to walk away from the sport he “truly loves” and begin his “next chapter”. He acknowledged those who had helped him in his rugby career saying, “I have met some of the most amazing people on my journey and come out of it with wonderful, life long friends. I thank all of the people who have supported me throughout my career, I would never have been able to do it without them.”

Before recognising Smith’s closing statement of “Over and Out”, we thought we would look back at some of the defining moments of Smith’s rugby career – both for Scotland U20 and Glasgow Warriors.

 

Glasgow debut at Ospreys’ Liberty Stadium: Smith debuted at the Liberty Stadium at the tail end of the 2016/17 season, in an away fixture which would eventually go 26-15 in the Ospreys’ favour. Despite the score line, his first appearance in a Warriors’ jersey showed a young flanker with tough ball carrying abilities, and a want to do well.

Scotstoun try brace against Zebre: Smith scored his two Warriors’ tries on the same night, underneath the sunshine at Scotstoun stadium against Zebre. In a high-scoring evening for the Glasgow outfit – they went on to secure a 45-10 win – Smith made his contributions as a replacement in the last 20 minutes of the match. His first of the night was a product of tearing out of the rolling maul and battering his way across the line, whilst his second was a lucky collection of a popped up ball on the line which he quickly darted down.

A promising young Scotland U20: Smith’s Scotland U20 career included a try in the side’s historic 24-6 win against England in the 2016 U20 Six Nations – Scotland’s first win against England at U20 level – as well as another in the tournament against France. Smith also played a role in the Scotland team who charted a shock defeat over Australia and a determined victory against Italy in the 2016 World Rugby U20 Championship.

Scotland training squad call-up: The flanker, with his feisty style coupled with a brutal edge in both defence and attack, had his work recognised when he was given a call-up to train with Townsend’s Scotland squad in preparation for the 2019 Six Nations. Though a capable ball carrier, it seemed Smith’s main strengths lay in utilising his pure brute-strength. It would have been interesting to have seen him play at international level alongside some of the very same players he represented U20s with.

A battling last Glasgow appearance: Smith’s last match for the Warriors came in round 14 of the Pro14’s 2018/19 season when Glasgow faced Ospreys at home on Burns Night. It was an arduous fixture, taking 31 minutes for the visitors to finally put the first points on the board. And so, in a relatively scrappy encounter, the majority of Smith’s night was spent in defensive efforts, providing cover at rucks and extra brute strength in the Warriors’ line.

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