'He's definitely setting the bar': All Blacks trainer reveals the team's most driven player
Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, Gill, who has been part of the All Blacks set-up since 2004, said no player has impressed him with their work ethic and discipline like Smith has.
“The transformation he’s been through from when he first became an All Black to the professional he is now. He is working so hard not just on his team or his form but his body, his skill – his drive to be the best nine in the world is massive,” Gill said.
“It’s just all the little things – it’s the stretching, it’s the massages, it’s getting to training half an hour before anyone else so he can do his own skill work that others aren’t doing. Doing his stretching and his rolling after sessions.
“He’s definitely setting the bar at the moment from what I can tell in the All Black group.”
Since his debut for the All Blacks in 2012, Smith has become a vital member of the New Zealand national side as he has accrued 97 test caps, a World Cup title and multiple Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship crowns.
His influence is perhaps felt even more at the Highlanders, the franchise he has played for since 2011 and since become co-captain of.
During this year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa season, the 32-year-old became the team’s most-capped player ever, and after having signed a two-year contract extension in March, Smith’s value to the Highlanders is only going to grow.
Renowned for his fast-paced style of play and world-class passing ability, Smith has also grown into a leader and has become virtually indispensable within both the Highlanders and All Blacks squads.
Gill told the Herald that, despite Smith’s age, he doesn’t see the livewire No 9’s status in either team diminishing over the coming years given how well he prepares and recovers off the field.
“If the mindset is right and you’ve got the discipline to do all those little things… it just translates onto the park. He’s a great example of an older athlete that’s still at the top of his game and doesn’t look like slowing down.”
Gill also reserved praise for former All Blacks loose forward Liam Messam, who he described as “one of the fittest guys in the team”, and ex-All Blacks centurion Ma’a Nonu for their work ethic and durability.
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