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'I'm willing to pay for my body': Aaron Smith's secret to longevity

By Sam Smith

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All Blacks talisman Aaron Smith will play his 100th test on Saturday night when he runs out onto Eden Park to face up with the Wallabies and the 32-year-old has shed some light on how he’s able to maintain his impeccable standards.

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Smith debuted for New Zealand in 2012 and has been an almost guaranteed selection in the No 9 jersey since he arrived on the international scene due to his exceptional passing and second-to-none aerobic fitness.

Curiously, however, Smith hasn’t looked like the years are starting to catch up with him. If anything, the Highlanders co-captain appears to be getting better with age and is still just as quick around the park as he was when he first burst into the test arena as a 23-year-old.

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Dave Rennie and Michael Hooper spoke to the media ahead of their Bledisloe Cup clash with the All Blacks.

The man himself has confirmed that he feels he’s in better physical shape than in years gone by, which should signal to the rest of the world that come the 2023 World Cup, the All Blacks are still likely to have a fit and firing Aaron Smith running the show from the No 9 jersey, despite the fact that he’ll be almost 35.

“I’ve said it a few times, but I feel better now than I did in my late-20s,” said Smith at the launch of the latest All Blacks jersey. “It’s all about what you’re willing to put in, but the mental side of it is easy.”

Smith acknowledged that while he’s mastered the mentality that’s needed to be a professional athlete at the highest level of the game, maintaining peak physical condition is still an ongoing challenge.

“The top two inches is easy around getting mentally ready for things,” he said. “But physically it’s just hard work. There is no substitution. You earn everything you get.

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“I watch a lot of sports overseas around athletes I like that motivate me. The longevity is more around consistency, and little things done well and often. It’s small sacrifices, but there are big rewards if you are able to stay committed to something.”

The man considered by many to be the best in his position in the world – despite fierce competition from South Africa’s Faf de Klerk and France’s Antoine Dupont – hasn’t been afraid to seek external help to keep himself fit and ready to go each and every week.

No matter how well you look after your body, age creeps up on everyone, even professional athletes, which is why Smith has had to seek assistance in ensuring he can maintain his exceptional standards and adjust the way he prepares and recovers from matches.

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“I can’t just go run the roads like I used to,” he acknowledged. My knees and joints don’t like it. But there are watt bikes and things now to help if you’re willing.

“I do a lot of stuff before I even get to training in the mornings. I’ve got a very good routine around where I know I need to get my body to, and spend a lot of time with nutrionists around the fuel I put in.

“I spend a lot of money on recovery. I get a couple of rubs a week, and I’m very stringent with recovery pumps, ice baths and sauna. I have all that at home. I’m willing to pay for my body and I’m willing to make sure that it gives me as much as it can.”

Rugby players of the pre-professional era may baulk at the lengths Smith has to go to keep him running out onto the park week upon week – but it simply shows how committed the 32-year-old is to being the best player he can be.

In Auckland on Saturday Smith will become the 10th player to clock up a century of matches for the All Blacks – and the first halfback to achieve the feat.

The match kicks off at 7:05pm from Eden Park.

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'I'm willing to pay for my body': Aaron Smith's secret to longevity

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