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'Men of action': Aaron Smith's verdict on the next All Blacks captain

By Ben Smith
Aaron Smith, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga of New Zealand look on from a huddle after the International test Match in the series between the New Zealand All Blacks and Ireland at Eden Park on July 02, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Retired halfback Aaron Smith has been in the All Blacks leadership groups for the better part of a decade through his illustrious career.


He captained the side himself in 2021 and has deputised on a number of occasions, and has played alongside the two favourites for the job for a long time.

With Sam Cane announcing his international retirement at the end of 2024, a new captain will take the helm under new coach Scott Robertson.

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Smith weighed in on the matter and delivered his say on who should take the role between Scott Barrett and Ardie Savea.

“You’ve got two different types of players and two different guys,” Smith told Newstalk ZB’s Rugby Direct podcast.

“Scott and Ardie are both men of action, not much words. They are powerful when they do speak. The leadership quality in both of them is high.

“Whatever way you flip it, but for me I think you’ve got to go with your best player, and the best player in the world last year was Ardie Savea.


“He has been for awhile probably. Outside of him and Dupont, it’s a two horse race for a couple of years there.

“I thought Ardie was robbed a couple of years ago maybe, but it is what it is.”

What gave Savea the edge in Smith’s view was his previous experience captaining the All Blacks.

Under former head coach Ian Foster, Savea captained the side on a number of occasions starting in 2021.

During the 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign, Savea had to step up as captain during the final once Cane left the field.

Smith also believed Savea’s messages will always be well received, since he will only ask players to do what he is doing.


“Ardie’s credentials, when he’s led and how he’s led, probably give him a jumpstart,” he explained.

“Leading us in certain games in 2021, and last year at the World Cup. He lent heavily on us older boys but if he comes into a huddle and says something, you know he’s doing it.

“That would be all I would say I think but if you gave it to Scott which is a great option, is maybe the cohesiveness with Razor which is a big one.

“They’ve got that connection, they’ve won titles together.”

The Test centurion also threw a couple of other names into the mix as viable captain options, who regardless will play a large part in the leadership group around the captain.

He highlighted returning Blues first five Beauden Barrett and Crusaders captain Codie Taylor as two influential players in the All Blacks.

“It sounds like a two horse race but you’ve got guys with huge intangibles, Beauden Barrett obviously, who is a massive leader and got a lot of experience and a calm head.

“One I don’t think gets talked about enough is Codie Taylor. Outstanding performer and they way he prepares himself, diligent around his homework and the mana he carries in the group.

“But someone’s got to wear the hat, but the group will help the captain.”

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV


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MattJH 23 days ago

Captain has to be the best in their position.
Scott barret and Ardie will be starter picks for the next 4 years, Codie is mean but will he keep samisoni and asofa on the bench for that long? I don’t think so.

Barry 23 days ago

Been in the leadership group for almost a decade? Spent a fair bit of time in airport toilets too…

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