New Zealand v Australia, Bledisloe Cup
Ben Smith keeps attack front and centre
October 18, 2013
Ben Smith scored tries seemingly at will in The Rugby Championship © Getty Images
Ben Smith has been shifted to rugby's most demanding defensive position yet he holds onto one key thought: attack.
The most damaging runner and leading try scorer in The Rugby Championship will move from the right wing to play outside centre in the third Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday, but former All Blacks captain and centre Tana Umaga says the rising star of New Zealand rugby, who made 11 line breaks and scored eight tries during the team's recent campaign against the Wallabies, South Africa and Argentina must remain a key weapon with ball in hand.
Umaga said that New Zealand could not afford Smith to get bogged down by his new defensive duties, which differ markedly from the requirements of a winger, and Smith says that was his intention. "I'll make sure I fit into the system when it comes to defence, but I'm excited by the attack [options] in that position," he said. "There are a lot of opportunities and I'll be doing my best to make sure I'm aware when space opens up."
Smith's improvement from the uncertain player who made a modest Test debut against Italy in Milan four years ago has been striking. Smith said he felt "out of his depth" on that tour of Europe, and one Test against Fiji in 2011 was followed by 10 appearances last year, of which eight were off the bench. It is only this year that he feels at home in Test rugby, something coach Steve Hansen has also noticed.
"When he first came in, I don't think he believed that he should have been here," Hansen said of Smith. "He had doubts and that's not unusual for young people coming into the All Blacks. As time's gone on, he's got more comfortable in the environment and on the playing pitch. To the point where he's playing outstandingly well."
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