New Zealand Rugby
All Blacks move Ben Smith to centres and recall Jane
October 11, 2013
New Zealand's Ben Smith takes on Zane Kirchner for a high ball, New Zealand v South Africa, Rugby Championship, Freedom Cup, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, September 14, 2013
Ben Smith will move into the centres while Cory Jane looks set to take his position in the squad after missing the Super Rugby and Rugby Championships due to injury © Getty Images

Ben Smith will start at centre for the All Blacks against the Wallabies in Dunedin next week while Cory Jane is set to return to the Test scene. New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said Smith will move in one position to replace veteran centre Conrad Smith, who has begun a four-month New Zealand Rugby Union-approved break from the sport.

Ben Smith starred out wide during the Rugby Championship, scoring a competition-record eight tries in six Tests, but Hansen has few other options to partner Ma'a Nonu in the midfield against Australia on October 19. "The big thing about Ben is he's very comfortable in that All Black jersey, he's not finding anything too difficult because his confidence is sky high," Hansen told Radio LiveSport. "He's got a high work rate, he's very, very fit and he's got a similar style of game to Conrad. So hopefully he fits in pretty seamlessly."

Hansen says veteran wing Jane is likely to be Conrad Smith's squad replacement, just weeks after returning from a knee injury suffered in January that ruled him out of Super Rugby and the All Blacks' nine winning Tests this year. The squad will be named on Sunday, two days before they assemble in Dunedin.

Prop Owen Franks is ruled out by a groin complaint that saw him miss the Rugby Championship-clinching 38-27 win over South Africa in Johannesburg last weekend. First five-eighth Aaron Cruden tweaked his knee in that Test but is expected to be fit to face the Wallabies while veteran playmaker Dan Carter is an outside chance of selection as he recovers from a shoulder injury.

On Sunday Hansen will unveil a squad of 36 for the tour of Japan and Europe, which he says may feature "one or two new faces". He says that squad will be split in two, comprising one group to contest the Test against Japan in Tokyo on November 2 and another to head straight to Paris to prepare for the Test against France a week later.

Before then, he must lift his team to face an Australian side who they have beaten twice this year but who are coming off a 54-17 thrashing of Argentina in Rosario last weekend. "They've been a good side but they've certainly struggled with their confidence," Hansen said of the Wallabies. "This win will have given them an injection and, as we all know, you don't have to give an Aussie too much of an injection for his confidence to start coming out of his mouth."


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