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Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Experienced fullback Ben Smith has revealed he has been working hard at adding a new string to his bow in his final year with the All Blacks.
Smith, aged 33, and with 76 tests under his belt, will make his final lap of the track with the national team in their tilt at an historic hat-trick of World Cup crowns in Japan later this year before he heads for a season in Pau, France. Before that there is a truncated Rugby Championship, a pair of Bledisloe Cup clashes and a final hitout against Tonga to tick off.
Smith, a cast-iron starter, found himself pushed on to the right wing over the back part of last year when the All Blacks preferred the playmaking ability of Damian McKenzie in the No 15 jersey. They liked the presence of a ready-made second first-receiver option in their backline, and were happy to compromise with the classy Smith to achieve that.
But with McKenzie gone for the season through injury, that temptation has been removed, and there’s a decent chance Smith returns as the first-choice All Blacks fullback for the 2019 campaign which opens with the visit to Buenos Aires for the Rugby Championship opener against Argentina on July 20 (early July 21 NZT).
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If that’s the case – and Smith says he doesn’t mind where he plays, so long as he’s on the park – then expect to see a more versatile figure in the fullback’s jersey this year, with the Highlanders veteran confirming he’s been working hard at adding those first receiver’s skills to his repertoire.
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