Ben Smith Rugby World Cup: All Black Ben Smith’s big exam against Tonga awaits

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The All Blacks’ coach is hoping to see the best of Smith against Tonga on Saturday.

OPINION: It’s never nice to have to paint a bullseye on the hide of one of the great servants of New Zealand’s national game.

When that chosen target is Ben Smith, it’s even harder. Because when it comes to watching All Blacks’ games, rarely has Smith given spectators reason to grumble into their pottles of hot chips. 

Ben Smith Ben Smith's most recent test was in the 47-26 loss to the Wallabies in Perth.

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Ben Smith’s most recent test was in the 47-26 loss to the Wallabies in Perth.

Dependable? He’s been far better than that. At times he has been indispensable.

Whether at fullback, or on the right wing, Smith has often delivered during a distinguished career that began in 2009 and has resulted in him stacking up 79 test caps.

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That’s some achievement. But it’s time to pose a question ahead of the World Cup in Japan.

Ben Smith Ben Smith runs through drills ahead of the test against the Wallabies in Auckland on August 17.

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Ben Smith runs through drills ahead of the test against the Wallabies in Auckland on August 17.

Does Smith still deserve his five-star rating?

Judging by his recent performances for the All Blacks, it’s difficult to answer without attempting to create excuses.

Maybe the 33 year old, who suffered a serious hamstring injury in the latter part of the Highlanders’ Super Rugby season, was still trying to trust his body when he appeared in the Rugby Championship matches against Argentina, South Africa and Australia.

Because Smith didn’t warrant the indispensable tag in those tests in Buenos Aires, Wellington and P

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