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'I’m just blessed’: Aaron Smith looks ahead to final week as an All Black

By Finn Morton
Aaron Smith New Zealand performs the Haka before the Rugby World Cup France 2023 semi-final match between Argentina and New Zealand at Stade de France on October 20, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

This is Aaron Smith’s last week as an All Black. As you read this, take a moment to applaud, celebrate and cherish the greatness that the halfback known as ‘Nugget’ will leave behind.

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For a player who has given so much to the black jersey, Smith has an opportunity to bow out on top of the rugby world next weekend. The All Blacks are off to “the big dance” in France.

The All Blacks booked their ticket to the Rugby World Cup final with a commanding 44-6 win over Argentina on Friday which sets up a potential fairytale finish to Smith’s Test career.

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Smith bid a heartfelt farewell to the Highlanders at the end of their Super Rugby Pacific campaign earlier this year after signing for Toyota Verblitz in Japan on a long-term deal.

With New Zealand Rugby’s eligibility laws preventing overseas players from playing for the All Blacks, the 124-Test veteran has made peace with the fact this is it.

“Knowing it’s my last week, I knew it was going to come to an end. The silver lining for me is I got to control how I went out,” Smith told reporters after the semi-final win over Argentina.

“Obviously signed elsewhere next year but I wanted to make sure this year I had no regrets about how I played, my preparation and giving myself and the team the best I can give.

Match Summary

2
Penalty Goals
1
0
Tries
7
0
Conversions
3
0
Drop Goals
0
153
Carries
167
6
Line Breaks
11
17
Turnovers Lost
8
3
Turnovers Won
5

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“I’m just blessed (that) I’m trusted by the coaches and the boys to play. I pray to be standing talking to you next week.”

Form is temporary but class is permanent. While the end of Smith’s legendary career is now just days away, the All Blacks centurion has returned to some superb form during the World Cup.

Smith was especially impressive during the big win over Argentina at Stade de France with the Test veteran crossing for a try during the 38-point rout. The All Blacks – and Smith’s career – live to fight another day, which is truly incredible.

For a team that came under immense scrutiny following a historic series loss to Ireland last year, the All Blacks have silenced their critics as they await another chance at rugby immortality.

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“It’s still sinking in. Four years man, I remember this feeling this time four years ago – disappointed, gutted, feeling like you’ve sort of let the country down,” Smith said.

“To be in this position to contend for a World Cup is just so special and also the last couple of years, but all of that doesn’t count for anything now, we’ve taken another step in this tournament and we’re in the big dance.

“That’s so energising and so exciting for our team… just got to get our bodies and minds right and get excited about an awesome week to contend for the World Cup.”

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Comments

2 Comments
J
Jmann 237 days ago

He may have been passed by some younger talent now. But during his stewardship he was premier halfback in world rugby more often than he was not and is easily in the top 3 NZ have ever produced.

D
Diarmid 237 days ago

A proper legend of the game, a sniper who taught Dupont how to be the “ministre de l’intérieur” and the only true passer of the ball.

Du Preez and Dupont are the only two to come close to the technical skill level of this guy and his longevity speaks for itself.

In this day and age you hear guys like Earl or Kolisi shout and fist pump when they get penalties but I have loved listening to Smith scream “weeeeee!” when a call goes his way. It's terrifying, that sound. His smile and his enthusiasm bring up a team. I like the way he really cares about hurt opposition at the end of a game he wins too. A true gentleman and a man of the game.

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