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How Aaron Smith developed the world's best pass

By Online Editors
Aaron Smith will shape as the key man again when the All Blacks take on France.

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The general consensus is the two best halfbacks in the world are Conor Murray and Aaron Smith, with hairs splitting the two. It is debated that Smith has the edge in pure passing credentials, with unwavering velocity and accuracy with the ball a standout quality.

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His mechanics have been perfected over years of practice, starting when he was a kid.

“It wasn’t beaten into me but it was a challenge from my old man,” he said.

“I used to just practice all the time and he’d just say to me ‘you always use your right you got to use your left’ and I practiced my left a lot until it’s overtaken my right now. Funny how those things work out.

“I always had a ball in my hand as a kid, playing until it was smooth and bald. If you can get good at passing a bald ball you’ll be good when you get a grippy one.

His target practice?

“A sticker on the wheelie bin. When I was about 12, it was the right height, Beaudy is a bit taller than that so over the years you have to adjust it.

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“That was sort of it and I used to do it every night before dinner. My old man would come home and I would be waiting there by the rubbish bin. He’d go in and grab a beer, and then come out and just count.

“If I passed the ball the right way, it would come back, if not, it clammered off sideways. I’d say that’s what helped.

Aaron Smith's halfback training!Tag a halfback ??

Posted by Rugby Rampage on Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Years later, the speed of delivery with pinpoint accuracy is what makes him so important to the All Blacks. The ever-reliable pass that provides flat, wide, lightening-quick ball gives the team a platform to play at a ferocious pace. The ability to clear the ball so quickly is something Smith takes satisfaction from.

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“I think it’s definitely something I pride myself on. It’s a point of difference, being a bit smaller. I have to use that to my advantage any way I can and being lower to the ground helps.

“I’m really excited about getting some clean ball, the All Blacks always provides that opportunity from set piece lineouts, scrums and phase play.

“It’s exciting and fun here, this guy (Beauden Barrett) is really good. Just going to ruck, just keep it simple and listening to where I need to pass to makes it pretty simple for me.

“If we are going forward I just need to listen to where we need to go. I can just focus on passing the ball and I don’t mind passing.

Aaron Smith will resume his All Blacks 9-10 combination with Beauden Barrett, who enjoys the service provided by the 71-cap halfback.

“It’s a great strength of his, and even in the wet and cold conditions, my hands seize up somehow he has the ability to keep flinging them and put them on the spot,” Barrett said.

“It’s obviously something he’s worked on for awhile.

The two have built a relationship based on trust, where Barrett drives the direction of the team and Smith focuses on providing quality ball.

“I’ve played a lot with Beauden and the trust and time we’ve had together makes me feel really confident about trying to do my job, that’s the beauty about being in the All Blacks.

“In Super Rugby, you can try really hard to do a lot of things and give as much as you can but here you can just narrow in on your role, your job and mine is speed to the ruck, listen, and clear the ball. It’s that simple.

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The All Blacks’ three-Test series against France kicks off at Eden Park on Saturday night.

The matchday 23 is as follows (with Test caps in brackets):

1. Joe Moody (31)
2. Codie Taylor (29)
3. Owen Franks (95)
4. Samuel Whitelock (96) – captain
5. Scott Barrett (16)
6. Liam Squire (15)
7. Sam Cane (53)
8. Luke Whitelock (2)
9. Aaron Smith (71)
10. Beauden Barrett (62)
11. Rieko Ioane (13)
12. Ryan Crotty (32)
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (22)
14. Ben Smith (64)
15. Jordie Barrett (2)
16. Nathan Harris (11)
17. Karl Tu’inukuafe – new cap
18. Ofa Tuungafasi (14)
19. Vaea Fifita (5)
20. Ardie Savea (22)
21. TJ Perenara (42)
22. Damian McKenzie (12)
23. Ngani Laumape (4)

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