New Zealand Rugby
Ben Smith commits to All Blacks
July 4, 2013
New Zealand's Ben Smith breaches the France defence, New Zealand v France, Eden Park, Auckland, June 8, 2013
Ben Smith has proved his importance to the All Blacks © Getty Images

Ben Smith has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby, the Highlanders and Otago through to 2017, having established himself as an "important All Black" during the three-Test series against France. Smith has played 15 tests for the All Blacks since making his debut in 2009, and he is the likely replacement for Conrad Smith should the veteran centre fail to make Rugby World Cup 2015 in England.

"I have always been proud to wear the Otago, Highlanders and All Blacks jerseys and so I'm delighted to be re-signing with New Zealand Rugby for the next four years," Smith said. "Growing up down the road from my Green Island club in Dunedin, rugby was the game I have always loved. And I'm loving it still. I look forward to playing my part any way I can over the next few years."

Smith, a New Zealand Under 21 representative, made his provincial debut for Otago in 2007 before entering the Super Rugby arena with the Highlanders in 2009. Graham Henry first selected him for the All Blacks in the squad to tour Europe after an outstanding 2009 season, and he made his Test debut against Italy. He was also selected for the All Blacks Sevens team that won gold at the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010.

"He is an exceptional footballer and a down-to-earth team man," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. "He is a true professional, is constantly learning and works incredibly hard on developing his game and it has paid dividends. We are delighted for him."

Ben Smith was prolific recently in the Dave Gallaher Cup series against France © Getty Images

Smith, the only Dunedin-born-and bred member of the Highlanders team, said the decision was "pretty easy" to make. "It's a team I'm pretty passionate about and I want to be part of a more successful side next year," he said. "I watched the great Otago team of 1998 as a schoolkid, and it was always a dream of mine from a young age to play for Otago and then the Highlanders. We've got a new stadium, great facilities and I'm looking forward to learning from our mistakes this year and moving on to 2014. This is where I want to be and it wasn't a hard decision. My family and friends are here and I feel comfortable in this environment. You always get other opportunities, I did look into going overseas, but I've made my decision and I'm glad I have.

Asked about his outstanding form this year, Smith said: "The guys around me have put me into space a few times, and that has helped. You gain confidence from regular game-time, and I've had that with the Highlanders and the All Blacks this season."

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph was more forthcoming and described Smith as a big part of the Highlanders and the All Blacks. "The players are always getting deals thrown at them and I'm thankful that Ben's decided to stay with the Highlanders. He gives the team a lot of confidence because he's a quality player and person. He's proved himself at every level and 'Bender' realises now that he's got the goods. He's a natural. He takes things in his stride. He's worked hard and earned everything he's got. His preferred position is fullback, he's certainly played well there for us, but he could play anywhere really."

Smith is the latest in a growing list of All Blacks who have recommitted to New Zealand Rugby, after Richie McCaw, Daniel Carter, Ben Franks, Wyatt Crockett, Brodie Retallick and Jeremy Thrush signed to 2015, and Dane Coles signed through to 2016.

Tony Woodcock, Owen Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Hikawera Elliot, Corey Flynn, Luke Romano, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Andy Ellis, Aaron Smith, Aaron Cruden, Conrad Smith, Israel Dagg and Cory Jane have all signed through to 2014.

© Sportal

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.