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Aaron Smith looking forward to linking up with former All Black

By Tom Vinicombe

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Halfback Aaron Smith won’t feature for New Zealand during the Rugby Championship – but that doesn’t mean he won’t continue to play alongside an All Blacks No 10 this year.

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The All Blacks revealed on Wednesday that the 32-year-old halfback will remain in NZ for the remainder of the competition due to the impending arrival of his second child. There’s a small chance that Smith could join the squad for their northern tour, but the safer bet would be that his test season is done and dusted for the year.

Smith will, however, continue to take the field, and has linked up with Manawatu for the remainder of New Zealand’s provincial season.

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The Black Ferns are making progress both on and off the field.
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The Black Ferns are making progress both on and off the field.

The fast-firing halfback admitted that he’d experienced some wistfulness watching the All Blacks play in Perth two weekend’s ago but that his return to the Turbos should quickly offset that feeling.

“I’m sitting at home doing all these trainings but training with no one,” Smith told media on Wednesday. “You go from being in an environment every day with 30 guys, being in the gym together, being on the field, [you miss] that kind of stuff, the locker room stuff.

“I’m sick of training by myself, at a park. There’s nothing but that. It’s fun for a little bit but I’m missing that and can’t wait to play again, prepare for a game. I love getting ready for games.”

As soon as Smith knew that he was likely to be in New Zealand for the NPC, he reached out Manawatu coach Peter Russell to offer his services. It was in some ways a strange conversation for the halfback, being unsure how keen Russell was to bring him in on a potentially temporary basis.

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“It was a weird one… It’s weird ringing a coach to ask to play,” Smith said. “Usually, coaches ring you and say, ‘Would you like to play?’ or ‘You’ve been selected’.

“So I was like, ‘Hey Pete, what are the chances of coming up to Manawatu to play some games till the end of October?’ and he was like ‘Yep, yep, that sounds good’. And then after that, he was texting me every day about stuff and sending me moves and sending me gameplans. It’s been good.

“The call to my dad was probably better, telling my dad I was coming home and clear out the old sleepout where I used to haunt in my high school days.”

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Smith has always been a passionate Turbos man and is looking forward to linking up with a team that’s showing plenty of upside so far in 2021.

“I’m going into a team that’s looking pretty good,” Smith said. “A mix of experience and some guys I’ve played with – Jason Emery and stuff are back as well. And they’ve had a great start to the year with a good win and then nearly beating Canterbury as well.”

Smith also highlighted the presence of one-test All Blacks pivot Brett Cameron, newly recruited to Manawatu, as a particular point of interest.

“Excited to play with Brett Cameron also, a quality 10, ex-All Black. That excites me,” he said. “The 9 and 10 is always a great position and pretty critical.”

Cameron made his solitary appearance in the black jersey on the 2018 end of year tour, where he came off the bench to earn some minutes against Japan. The 24-year-old has struggled for game-time at Super Rugby level since, however, and will link up with the Kamaishi Sea Waves in Japan next season.

Overall, however, Smith is just happy to be close to his family, and looking forward to once again running out in Manawatu colours.

“It’s better than sitting at home watching the All Blacks and sitting there twiddling my fingers,” he said. “I’m excited to get home.

“Going back to play for Manawatu is really exciting and [so is] playing in front of my old man – he loves seeing me playing in the green hoops. And if baby stays in there like he should, I can hopefully get 50 games if I’m selected.

“If I can get to 50 for the Turbos, I’d be blessed. It’d be an amazing way to finish the year and I can’t complain about 2021: getting married, making a Super Rugby final and getting 100 tests. If it ends with the Turbos, I can’t complain. I’m a very lucky man.”

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Aaron Smith looking forward to linking up with former All Black

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