Aaron Smith will surpass Justin Marshall’s record as the most capped All Black halfback this weekend. The Manawatu and Highlanders man will play his 82nd test at Aviva Stadium.
Coach Steve Hansen casts his mind back to when he first noticed Smith’s prodigious talent in 2010.
“He had a really good game for the New Zealand Māori. He played really well and I knew [then-Maori All Blacks coach] Jamie Joseph had a lot of time for him. Whilst he was a hundred miles an hour he needed a bit of refinement. But the potential was there,” he told media today.
Hansen also touched on the role that Smith plays in the side, which is integral to their high speed game-play.
“Aaron’s done a marvellous job speeding up our ball and allowing us to play at the tempo we want to play.”
To date, Smith has scored 16 test tries. He’s played in six games against Ireland, winning five and appearing in the historic loss to the men in green in Chicago two years ago.
In 2014 he was awarded the Tom French Memorial Trophy for the Māori Player of the Year.
All Blacks team to play Ireland, Aviva Stadium, Dublin (kick-off 8am NZT):
1. Karl Tu’inukuafe, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Sam Whiteock, 6. Liam Squire, 7. Ardie Savea, 8. Kieran Read (c), 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Beauden Barrett, 11. Rieko Ioane, 12. Ryan Crotty, 13. Jack Goodhue, 14. Ben Smith, 15. Damian McKenzie
Bench: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Ofa Tuungafasi, 18. Nepo Laulala, 19. Scott Barrett, 20. Matt Todd, 21. TJ Perenara, 22. Richie Mo’unga, 23. Anton Lienert-Brown