Aaron Smith, the Highlanders and New Zealand scrum-half has said he’d ‘love’ to play alongside Racing 92 and Scotland fly-half Finn Russell in a wide-ranging Twitter Q&A with fans.
The 92-cap All Black, who has been in such scintillating form with the Dunedin-based franchise in Super Rugby Aotearoa in the past few months, will have put the free-flowing Barbarians on stand-by with such a tantalising half-back pairing all fans would pay to see.
Russell, who is known for his mercurial talents and devil-may-care attitude, had a high-profile difference of opinion with his national coach Gregor Townsend before the Six Nations, but he’s expected to back in the bosom of the Scotland squad for the recently arranged Autumn Internationals against France, Italy and Japan and the rearranged Wales game in the Six Nations.
Smith is widely acknowledged to be the world’s best scrum-half, with South Africa’s Faf de Klerk and France’s Antoine Dupont, snapping at his heels.
When probed on his fiercest adversary, the 31-year-old was fulsome in his praise of a former Springbok No 9. ‘My idol, Fourie (du Preez), SA legend.’
Other gems from his #Nugchats (he’s called Te_Nug on Twitter), include a deep appreciation of Wallaby captain Michael Hooper, whom he describes as being ‘an unreal player’, and having a ‘massive engine’ and his fellow scrum-half Will Genia.
The Southern Hemisphere-flavoured theme to his chat continued when the former Feilding High School pupil named Johannesburg’s Ellis Park as the toughest stadium to play in.
As for players to watch who are coming through the system in New Zealand, Smith named fly-half-cum-fullback Drew Wild from his own Manawatu Turbos side, and Connor Garden-Bachop, the Highlanders wing who can count Stephen Bachop as a father and Aaron Mauger as an uncle.
While wrapping up, he did not rule out travelling overseas in the latter stages of his career, but for now, the World Cup winner is preparing for the visit of the rejuvenated Blues to Dunedin on Sunday.
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