SCOTTISH RUGBY has lost one of its all-time greats with the death of former national team and British & Irish Lions prop Tom Smith at the age of 50, after a brave battle with stage four colorectal cancer.
He represented Scotland 61-times between 1997 and 2005, and also played in six consecutive Test matches for the Lions on two tours, first as a three-times capped international novice during the victorious 1997 expedition to South Africa and then in Australia four years later.
He was later an assistant coach at Edinburgh between 2009 and 2012, before taking on a role at Lyons. He was still living in the Lot-et-Garonne region of southern France.
Smith was diagnosed with cancer in 2019 and fought the disease with characteristic determination, becoming an ambassador for charity 40tude in the fight to improve early detection of such illnesses.
In November last year, he was inducted into the Scottish Rugby Hall of Fame, and he and his family – wife Zoe, sons Angus and Teddy and daughter Amelie – delivered the match ball ahead of the Autumn Nations Series game against South Africa, receiving a standing ovation from the capacity BT Murrayfield crowd.
“Tom was one of the toughest and most skilful players I had the pleasure to call a teammate,” said former team-mate and current Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend. “He succeeded in the most challenging of environments and kept up a high level of play well into his thirties.
“Tom also did a tremendous amount for charitable causes and was a great family man. I am convinced that he will be regarded as one of our best ever players and his loss will be felt by all those who played with him or watched him for club and country over the years.”
Smith was educated at Rannoch School then moved into senior rugby with Dundee HSFP. He first caught the attention of Scotland head coach Jim Telfer when representing Watsonians at the Melrose 7s as a 24-year-old in 1995, and was invited to train with national team, before being included in the touring squad for the 1996 tour to New Zealand. He made his Scotland debut in the 1997 Five Nations against England at Twickenham.
He was selected to tour with Lions to South Africa that summer, and confounded concerns about his size by playing in all three Tests during that iconic series.
He started all four matches as Scotland lifted the last ever 1999 Five Nations title.
He left Glasgow Caledonia (now Glasgow Warriors) to join Brive in France that summer, then moved to Northampton Saints in 2001, which was the same year as his second Lions tour and his elevation to Scotland captain for three matches.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Tom Smith,” a statement from the Lions said. “Tom made an incredible impact for the Lions, touring in 1997 as well as 2001, and was one of the great props to play the game. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time. RIP Tom.”